Pain after Lobectomy

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 8, 2013


After having my lower left lobe removed, I have had continuing pain in my left side below my breast in the rib area. I have been improving over the last four months, but the pain is still consuming my attempt at a positive attitude. My doctors are not really given me any indication as to how long this healing will take. Is there any time frame that I should consider too long for this type of surgery?


Joseph B. Shrager, MD, Thoracic Surgeon, responds:

Pain and discomfort in the chest are frequent complaints after lung surgery. In fact, of all the surgeries that thoracic surgeons perform, patients complain about this incision the most. It can take a number of months to resolve after the operation. If patients still have pain requiring narcotics beyond 3 months after the surgery, I usually recommend them seeing a "pain specialist." This is typically an anesthesiologist with special training in the management of chronic pain. They are knowledgeable about non-narcotic medications that sometimes help with this pain. If the pain is due to damage to the nerves between the ribs, they may be able to inject and ultimately ablate these nerves to manage the pain. Unfortunately, however, a small minority of patients may continue to have pain at or around the incision site indefinitely after surgery, although the intensity or frequency of this pain typically decreases with time.