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What You Should Know About Going Home After Your Video-Assisted Thoracotomy (VATs) Biopsy

This information will prepare you to go home after your video-assisted thoracotomy (VATs) biopsy.

After your surgery, you will stay in the hospital for 24 hours. You will be ready for discharge when:

  • You can eat solid food and drink enough liquids.
  • You can get up and walk. Your nurse will show you how to do this properly. Walking several times a day in the hospital and at home helps your digestive tract function and will help you heal and recover.
  • Your chest tube has been removed. This drain should be removed shortly after your surgery.
  • Your Foley® catheter, a small flexible tube that drains urine from your bladder, has been removed and you are able to urinate without difficulty. This catheter will be removed several hours after your surgery.
  • You have enough pain relief. You should expect to have some discomfort after your surgery, but you will be given pain medication. It will make you comfortable enough to manage at home. If you need to refill your prescription for pain medication before your follow-up visit, please call your doctor's office.

To help you prevent lung problems, you will be asked to use an incentive spirometer. This is a small breathing device that will help expand your lungs. Your nurse will teach you how to use it. You should use it 10 times every hour.

Most patients can expect to be discharged by 11:00 am. Before you leave, you will be given:

  • Instructions on how to care for your incision
  • Any prescriptions you need
  • Any supplies you need
  • Phone numbers for your doctor or nurse. Keep these numbers in a safe place

When You Get Home

Special instructions

  • Your chest tube site will be covered with a dressing for 48 hours after the drain is removed. During this time, you cannot shower.
    • Once the 48 hours have passed, you can remove the dressing and shower. It is normal for the site to drain some clear, yellow, or pink fluid. The drainage may last for several days. Keep the site covered with a clean, dry gauze pad or Band Aid® until the drainage stops.
    • Change the dressing when it is wet.

Exercising and eating

  • Walk every day. Try to walk a bit further each day than you walked the day before.
  • Make sure that you drink eight 8-ounce glasses of liquids each day.
  • Eat small, frequent meals to help you get enough calories.

Call your doctor's office:

  • To make a follow-up appointment
  • At least 3 days before your pain medication runs out. This will give us enough time to get your refill.

Call Your Doctor or Nurse Immediately if You Have:

  • A temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher
  • Shakes or chills
  • Increased pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased redness, swelling, or drainage from your incision