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Gullet (oesophagus) cancer

A group for anyone affected by gullet cancer (also known as oesophageal cancer) to get together, ask questions, share experiences and support each other.

Gullet surgery Oesophagectomy partial right lung collapse and infection

No. of entries: 15 | Posted on 4 Jul 2010 4:54 PM

Gullet surgery Oesophagectomy partial right lung collapse and infection

  •  Hi,

    This site is rather confusing! My husband had surgery on Tuesday 29th June 2010. He had a 3-stage Oesophagectomy, lymphadenectomy and roux-en-Y.

    The operation went very went which obviously is good.

    He was taken off the ventilator the day after surgery but got very hot and distressed. He was talking to me, and told me he had shoulder pain and felt *********** terrible! He was quite "with it" but his breathing got worse and he was put back on a ventilator on Thursday and is still on the ventilator today (Sunday) He appears to have a partial right lung collapse and probably a infection. They hope to bring him off the ventilator everyday but he gets too distressed when they try.

     I don't even quite know why I'm posting here as there aren't really any answers I don't think. The doctors have been great. One spoke to me for 20 minutes on Friday and explained everything to me. They've done a CTscan and they are treating him with antibotics etc.


    Has anyone had a similar situation after surgery?


    Best Wishes to you all!!

    Samantha x

  • Hi Samantha

    Welcome to the group where there are several people here who have had various forms of surgery for oesophageal cancer, myself included.  (If you click on their photos you can read people’s profiles.)

    Part of the surgical procedure involves deflating a lung, and whilst it’s unfortunate for the lung to collapse again afterwards, it does happen sometimes and the possibility for lung infections is also fairly common.  The doctors will be monitoring your husband very closely, so I’m sure he’s in excellent hands.  At this stage, he shouldn’t be feeling too much pain because of the epidural, so if he does he should mention this to the nurses who are in charge of the pain management, which includes the epidural, morphine and any other meds.  Sometimes, infection coupled with any discomfort, pain and fear can cause distress, so it’s very important to reassure your husband as much as possible.  It’s quite a frightening situation feeling that you can’t draw a breath properly, and because the ribs were either spread open or cut during surgery, it’s also painful.  I’ve spoken to a few people that have been through similar, and one who had very severe complications, all of whom are doing well now. 

    The shoulder pain is also quite a common side effect and can continue for quite a long time.  It could be attributed to the position during surgery, or to possible slight nerve damage.  However, this nearly always improves and disappears in time.  Hopefully, day by day with your encouragement, your husband will become stronger and more confident. 

    Recovery from this surgery is a long road, as no doubt you’ve already seen from some of the discussions here.  The main thing is to take each day as it comes, as there will be great strides forward and days where there are backward steps.

    Keep posting and let us know how your husband gets on.

    All the very best and I hope your husband begins to make a good recovery very soon.



  • Hi Samantha

    I can’t say that I know too much about the 3-stage Oesophagectomy, lymphadenectomy and roux-en, except I believe it is practiced more in Japan, however like Crystal I have undergone the Ivor Lewis and am doing quite well now, pulmonary problems are well known after this type of operation due to the extended lung collapse; I was taken off the ventilator without incident but did suffer a lung infection which was also managed by antibiotics, my right lung was very problematic for a long time after the operation but fortunately has now resolved itself. Just as Crystal has said it is a long road ahead, just remember time is your best friend the greater the distance from this operation the better and this is very early days.

    Take care,


  • Thank you SO much for your reply. It bought a tear to my eye, as I can really feel the wave of support and good wishes.

    I went to see my husband just now in intensive care and he's sedated still and on the ventilator. He looked better than he did yesterday, he seemed more comfortable and his colour was better.

    Hopefully he will come off the ventilator soon and I can get back to supporting him and giving him lots of love and encouragement! 

    Thankyou again for your message and I will keep you informed.

    Lots Of very best wishes, Samantha x

  • Thanks Steve too for your reply, I really do feel most grateful for your kind words.

    It is a Japanese way of doing surgery indeed.

    As I said to Crystal I feel better today as he looked more stable and a better colour, even though he's sedated on the ventilator.

    Hopefully he will come off the ventilator soon and I will keep you informed.

    Very very best wishes, and thanks again,


  • Hi Samantha

    So sorry you are here with us but you will (and have already) find lots of support.  My husband was in hospital for 5 weeks after his first op...not sure of staging etc. but it had certainly gone to his lymph nodes and all of his oesophegeous and a third of his stomach was removed.   Infections, pain and so forth were all included in the package.  Each day brings/brough another challenge but the main thing is that your husband's come through the major surgery and he has you as support.

    You will find the strength to keep going....strength you didn't know you had.

    A big hug and best wishes to you both

    Sue x

  • Do tell us how the cyberknife has gone so far, and good luck for tommorow..


    Sue, Thankyou SO much.

    Hugs and best wishes to you,

    Samantha x

  • Hi Samantha,

    So sorry you've had to find your way here, but it's the place to come for knowledge & support. I echo Sue's words in that you will find strength you didn't know you had. It is a long, sometimes bumpy road, but the hope for a happy ending is what keeps us all going.

    My husband was diagnosed at 52, he had a "minimally invasive" oesophagectomy which took about ten hours, was in ICU for five weeks, in hospital for a total of nine but we got through it & are still going! Be prepared for ups and downs plus a handful of unforeseen problems & come on here if you have any queries, worries, moans, rants...someone will give you an answer!

    Wishing you & your hubby all the best,

    Liz xxx





  • Thank you Liz!

    We were living in Spain before this, and I can relate to it improving your medical spanish!! Si!

    I do hope you are both doing well today, sometims it's best to take it a day at a time. That's how I'm feeling at the moment.

    No change today sadly.

    All the very best, Samantha

  • Hi Samantha

    I am another who has been through the op.

    The shoulder pain I found tremendous and the epidural just did not seem to get at that! - Told it was due to how they place you whilst they operate, one arm down and one right up and taped down - well so I was told. As it is an abnormal position the muscles/nerves give you a bit of gip for sometime.

    I was lucky and had no extra problems except for the op itself. 13 weeks on I am doing well so don't despair - he will get there! I walked 10k last Saturday to raise money for our local hospice and I am on radio! - So I do promise it will get better - the journey is a bit bumpy though I know.

    Take care both




  • Thankyou Charlotte for your kind message.

    Well done on the 10k!!! Amazing!

    He's doing a bit better today, is still sedated and on the ventilator and they hope to bring him off it on Friday - fingers crossed.

    Very Very best wishes, x


  • Hi All,

    Husband is off ventilator! Yipppeee!

    No pain! He had shoulder pain, but it's gone.

    He's doing very well although he's having trouble getting the gunk of his chest. The physio is trying to help him but it won't shift...He coughs hard but nothing happens. Any advice I can give him?  The doctors and the physio would like him to shift it!

    He walked round his bed today, all good progress!

    Feeling much more positive!

  • Hi Samantha

    This is very good news now that your husband is off the ventilator as it will enable the lungs to recover and become stronger.  He does indeed need to clear his chest and the only way to do this, which is very painful, is to cough and to keep coughing.  Nothing can make this easier for him as it will be nil by mouth for a while and the sore ribs don’t help either.  What I found helped was to do deep breathing exercises for around five minutes and then to try three successive coughs, drawing a big breath for the third one and aiming for a big cough.  Also, he should have been given a spirometer, a breathing gadget, which helps the patient to inhale and I found this very helpful.  All this probably sounds very meagre advice, but the only thing to do is to try to get the lungs to begin coughing and this is difficult because of the associated pain in the ribs and at the surgical site.  Now that he’s walking this also should enable him to draw a deeper breath and hopefully make coughing easier.  Anyway, without the coughing he seems to be making progress again and if he continues like this he’ll be given the all important swallow test, and if all is well there, he’ll be able to take fluids by mouth.  Take a day at a time and stay positive, as a good attitude does seem to help.

    All the best



  • Hi Samantha,

    Great news indeed! I agree with Crystal, the incentive spirometer should help. My hubby is a terrible patient & he would do anything to wriggle out of using it because it made him cough! It helps to inflate the lungs & to cough up the mucous so it's a win-win situation, apart from the pain & discomfort, and will hasten his recovery. He was also given a treatment three times a day where they put a drug into an oxygen mask so he would inhale humidified oxygen with an expectorant in it to loosen the secretions & make them easier to cough up.

    Being off the ventilator is a great relief - my guy was on it for three weeks and they had to "wean" him off it gradually. You'll notice improvements every day now! 

    Love & luck to you both,

    Liz xx

  • Thanks Crystal and Liz,

    Poor you Liz - 3 weeks!  Our 1 week on the ventilator felt like forever. I was there for the hours before and when they took him off, I helped him keep calm - although he has no memory of it at all. The sedatives they use are very clever indeed.

    He's using the spirometer and managed to walk out of icu yesterday and a bit down the corridor and back! I was so thrilled! Great progress!

    Bowels and everything working OK, so all going in the right direction!

    He hasn't managed to cough up the gunk but he's doing lots of excercise so hopefully it will sort itself out! He's not in any pain when he coughs, he's just not very good at getting the stuff up!

    He had the contrast bariium drink test yesterday, we are waiting for the results.

    All going very well, touch wood!

    Lots Of love to you all, Samantha x