BACKGROUND: Pulmonary function is a main factor influencing postoperative morbidity and mortality in thoracic surgery. OBJECTIVE: To determine the significance of surgical trauma on postoperative pulmonary function by comparing the preoperative forced expiratory volume in 1 second with that obtained 14 days after surgery. METHODS: A retrospective study was conducted on 385 consecutive patients undergoing elective thoracic surgery over 3 years. RESULTS: Operative trauma alone effected a reduction of approximately 0.6 L per second in the value of forced expiratory volume in 1 second irrespective of the extent of pulmonary resection. Significant differences in the overall reduction among enucleation, segmental resection, lobectomy, and pneumonectomy were not observed. CONCLUSIONS: The data indicated that the remaining lung tissue was severely compromised throughout the postoperative period and that surgical trauma was the main factor influencing postoperative pulmonary function for at least 2 weeks.

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