Side Effects of Pneumonectomy

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


I had a lung removed this past October. My question is does removing a lung affect your ability to sing? I used to sing in church, but since just prior to the surgery I felt like there was a lump in my throat or that I strained my voice if I would sing and try to hit a high note. I have been to an ENT physician and have had my thyroid checked, as well as a throat scan, and everything has been found to be normal. This does not happen all the time, only when I try to sing or even if I laugh a lot. This is really bothering me, but if I know this is normal or that it will eventually go away I can live with it. Thanks for any information you can give me.


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

It is quite possible that if you had, as I gather, a pneumonectomy (total lung removal) on one side, that you would have difficulty with any number of activities that require expiratory force. These certainly include singing. It is likely that your pulmonary function, including your expiratory force, may gradually recover somewhat and improve over the year or two following surgery, but it is unlikely to improve beyond that or return to near the pre-surgery levels.

If you had any component of emphysema from smoking preoperatively, your lung function will likely actually slowly continue to worsen to some extent. If you would like to know what percent of your pulmonary function you have lost with the surgery, you could undergo "PFTs" (pulmonary function tests) that would help you get a better handle on this. These tests may show things that a pulmonologist could treat with inhalers, or there may be no medications to improve your breathing function. I hope this is of help. All in all, it sounds like you are doing quite well following a huge operation if the only time you notice weakness of your breathing is with singing and laughing.