Extrapleural Pneumonectomy

Although surgery is usually not recommended as a cancer cure for patients with mesothelioma, there are surgeries which may be suggested in order to slow the spread of the disease. One of the most common curative procedures is known as the extrapleural pneumonectomy, which is a procedure that consists of removal of the affected lung as well as pieces of the pericardium membrane, the diaphragm, and the parietal pleura. A standard pneumonectomy involves the removal of only the diseased lung to rid the body of cancerous cells.

The extrapleural pneumonectomy was used initially during the 1940s as a means of treating tuberculosis. Today, it is primarily used in mesothelioma treatment.

The Procedure

The procedure is performed on patients fortunate enough to have received early diagnosis, before the spread of the cancer to the lymph nodes or other organs. This permits the removal of the majority of the tumor. However, because the disease is often not diagnosed until later, many patients are not good candidates for the procedure.
For eligible patients, extrapleural pneumonectomy may be able to ease breathing problems, improve quality of life, and even halt the disease’s progression. Along with radiation and chemotherapy, the surgery has the ability to increase the life expectancy of the patient by months or even years.

There are, unfortunately, many hospitals that do not have extrapleural pneumonectomy specialists. This often requires patients travel to larger hospitals in order to find a qualified surgeon.

This is a serious surgery and performed with general anesthesia. A nine to ten inch incision is made in the side or front of the patient’s body. After the incision is cut, the surgeon inspects the area for affected tissue and removes as much of this tissue as possible.

After the procedure, the patient remains in the hospital for a minimum of two weeks, as complications are common. After the individual’s release, the recovery period lasts between 6 and 8 weeks, on average.

Benefits of Procedure

The procedure has been known to increase the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients due to its removal of the cancerous cells. After surgical recovery, the individual typically feels healthier and more comfortable and is able to resume most everyday activities.

It is essential that patients remember the majority of mesothelioma cases are not receptive to surgery. However, with the improvements that are being made to diagnose the cancer earlier, doctors are hopeful that more and more individuals will be able to successfully undergo the surgery and improve their lives.

References:

American Cancer Society
University of California San Francisco Division of Adult Cardiothoracic Surgery