Mediastinal Surgery | Cardiothoracic Surgery | Loyola Medicine

Mediastinal Surgery

Overview and Facts about Mediastinal Surgery

Mediastinal tumors develop in the mediastinum (central chest). This area is located between the lungs and the chest walls. The mediastinum includes the heart, aorta, esophagus, thymus, trachea, lymph nodes and nerves.

Mediastinal tumors may be benign or cancerous. Even benign tumors may be dangerous, as they can press on your heart, lungs and spinal cord. Doctors often recommend thoracic surgery to remove these tumors.

What to Expect during Mediastinal Surgery

Your doctor will begin with an in-depth evaluation and order imaging tests to determine the size and location of the tumors. These tests help your surgeon create a treatment plan.

You may need a surgical procedure called a sternotomy. This procedure involves cutting through the breastbone at the front of your chest. Alternatively, some patients may be eligible for video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). This procedure is minimally invasive and uses video cameras to guide the surgery. Some VATS procedures may also involve robotic surgical systems for added precision.

On the day of your surgery, your medical team will place you under anesthesia. This medication makes you sleep through the procedure. Next, your surgeon will make incisions and insert their instruments to remove the tumor, then closeup the incision.

Once the surgery is complete, the team will take you to a recovery room. At that point, your team can provide more information about follow-up care.

If your tumor is cancerous, you made need radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Your doctor may recommend imaging tests at a later date to confirm that your cancer is gone. Your cancer care team can offer more details about this process.

What are the Side Effects of Mediastinal Surgery?

After thoracic surgery, you may experience:

  • Bleeding
  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue

These symptoms usually disappear go away as you recover, but some patients may have long-lasting side effects. Patients with large tumors may be at a higher risk for side effects after surgery.

What are the Risks of Mediastinal Surgery?

Mediastinal surgery affects your heart, lungs, and esophagus. As a result, this type of surgery sometimes causes:

Your surgeon can help you weigh these risks and choose the right treatment. Most patients recover well from their mediastinal surgery.

Your medical team can explain how to reduce your risk of complications. Following your hospital discharge instructions can help speed up your recovery.