Questions to Ask About Surgery for Chronic Lung Disease

Surgery is a serious step. You and the person you're caring for should ask as many questions as you need to before he decides to go ahead.

  • If the person in your care has COPD, is lung volume reduction surgery an option?
  • If the person has NTM, should he have surgery to remove diseased lung tissue?
  • What experience do local thoracic surgeons have with these surgeries?
  • Is open lung biopsy needed? (This is often done to determine what type of disease is present with ILD.)
  • Why does the person need the surgery?
  • How will removing all or part of a lung affect the person’s breathing and ability to function?
  • Will the surgery stop the problem or merely slow it down?
  • What are the other choices?
  • Can it be done on an outpatient basis?
  • What will happen if surgery is not done?
  • Where will the surgery be done? When?
  • Is there a less expensive hospital?
  • Will the surgeon he spoke to do the surgery or will it be assigned to another doctor? (When going into surgery, put the surgeon’s name on the release form to ensure that the named surgeon is the one who does the operation.)
  • How many surgeries of this type has the doctor performed? (Generally, the more times the surgeon has performed an operation, the higher the success rate will be.)
  • What is the doctor’s success rate with this type of surgery?
  • What are the anesthesiologist’s qualifications?
  • What can go wrong?
  • Is there a specialized center for surgery or treatment for ILD and NTM? (Not all surgeons have experience with the surgery needed for NTM.)
  • Is there a center doing research on lung disease?
  • How much will the surgery cost, and is it covered by insurance?
  • What other specialists can he ask for a second opinion? (Medicaid and Medicare usually pay for second opinions. Doctors expect people to get a second opinion when surgery is needed, and they should help you get one.)

Maria M. Meyer and Paula Derr, with Mary Gilmartin

Maria M. See full bio