(Removal of the Thymus Gland)
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Reasons for Procedure
- Damage to other organs
- Nerve injury
- Respiratory failure
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will likely do the following:
- A physical examination
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Muscle strength tests
- Breathing tests
- Follow a special diet, which may include withholding foods and fluids before surgery.
- Take prescribed medications as directed by your doctor.
- Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
- Arrange to have someone drive you to and from the procedure.
- Ask for help at home after your procedure.
Description of Procedure
- Trans-sternal approach—An incision will be made in the skin over your breastbone. The breastbone will be pulled apart. The thymus gland will then be exposed and removed. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples.
- Transcervical approach—A small incision is made across the lower part of the neck, just above the breastbone. The thymus gland will be removed. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples.
- Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) or robot-assisted thoracic procedures—This is a less invasive option. Several tiny incisions are made in the area. A tiny camera will be inserted through one of the incisions. The camera will send images to a monitor in the room. Robotic arms may be used to do the surgery. Special tools will be passed through the remaining incisions to remove the thymus. After the thymus is removed, the incisions will be closed with stitches.
Immediately After Procedure
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
Average Hospital Stay
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
- Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incision
- Improvement in muscle strength may take several months to a few years.
- It is important to work with a neurologist during the recovery period to regulate medications.
- You may need to work with a physical therapist
Call Your Doctor
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you've been given
- Cough, difficulty breathing, or chest pain
- Pain, burning, urgency, or frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine
- Persistent nausea and vomiting
- Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
- New or worsening symptoms
Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, Inc. http://www.myasthenia.org
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Muscular Dystrophy Canada http://www.muscle.ca
General information about thymoma and thymic cancers. National Cancer Institute. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/thymoma/patient. Updated March 22, 2013. Accessed May 22, 2013.
Myasthenia gravis fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/myasthenia%5Fgravis/detail%5Fmyasthenia%5Fgravis.htm#84053153. Updated December 4, 2012. Accessed May 22, 2013.
Shrager JB. Extended transcervical thymectomy: the ultimate minimally invasive approach. Ann Thorac Surg. 2010;89(6):S2128-2134.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Mills E, Eyawo O, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 02/2015 -
- Update Date: 01/23/2014 -