A thoracotomy is an incision into the pleural space of the chest. It is performed by surgeons (or emergency physicians under certain circumstances) to gain access to the thoracic organs, most commonly the heart, the lungs, or the esophagus, or for access to the thoracic aorta or the anterior spine (the latter may be necessary to access tumors in the spine).
A thoracotomy is a major surgical procedure—it is the first step in many thoracic surgeries including lobectomy or pneumonectomy for lung cancer—and as such requires general anesthesia with endotracheal tube insertion and mechanical ventilation.
Thoracotomies are thought to be one of the most difficult surgical incisions to deal with post-operatively, because they are extremely painful and the pain can prevent the patient from breathing effectively, leading to atelectasis or pneumonia.
A thoracostomy is a small incision of the chest wall, with maintenance of the opening for drainage. It is most commonly used for the treatment of a pneumothorax. This is performed by surgeons, emergency department physicians, and paramedics, usually via needle thoracostomy or with a thoracostomy tube (chest tube).
A thoracostomy is often confused with thoracotomy, which is a larger incision commonly used to gain access to organs within the chest.
The surgical procedure of making an incision into the chest, normally as a first step to gain access to the thoracic organs, such as the heart, the lungs, and the esophagus.
Incision into the chest wall, with maintenance of the opening for drainage.
surgical incision into the chest wall.
Surgical opening of the chest wall, usually in order to provide access for drainage or resection of (a portion of) a rib.