Can You Live With One Lung?

Lungs are one of the most integral parts and also regarded as a vital organ. The lung is the organ responsible for energy in the body as they supply oxygen which is essential for producing energy. Pneumonectomy is the process in which the lungs are removed due to clinically underlying conditions. Pneumonectomy is done in the life-threatening conditions. Two types of pneumonectomy are done; one of them is simple and involves only the removal of the lungs while another pneumonectomy is related to the removal of extra pleural organs such as a part of diaphragm or pericardium. After the pneumonectomy is done, the patient is treated with the medicines including pain medication and anti-infectives. After pneumectomy, breathing capacity of the patient is significantly reduced and the patient is advised to refrain himself from strenuous exercise. Further, pneumonectomy also reduces the quality of life as the patient has to undergo significant changes in his lifestyle.

Can You Live With One Lung?

Can You Live With One Lung?

The human body consists of two lungs which functions in supplying oxygen to the body and removing carbon dioxide. However, there are various conditions when the patient has to live with one lung. The other lung may either got damaged or removed due to the underlying life-threatening disease. The removal of the lung is known as pneumonectomy. The conditions that lead to the pneumonectomy may be benign or malign. The conditions which lead to pneumonectomy include lung cancer, lung infection and lung injury. Although pneumonectomy is itself a complicated procedure and risk of surgical interventions are high. However, due to highly sophisticated technology, the risk factor has been come down a little. The main challenge is to live with one lung. The patient can live with one lung as far as general day-to-day activities are concerned but there are certain restrictions to the patients who had undergone pneumonectomy.

The patients have to adjust physically, socially and have to perform lifestyle modifications. After the pneumonectomy, the patient may experience pain, constipation and epigastric symptoms. The fluid filled in the pneumonectomy space may be the site for bacterial growth and eventually cause infection. In some cases, the patient may experience fluid moving in the chest. The patient experiences a shortness of breath and should avoid the strenuous exercise or the jobs requiring high energy. The patient also had to undergo lifestyle modifications due to their physical limitations. Although a person may live with one lung, but the quality of life is significantly reduced.

Need for Lung Removal

Pneumonectomy is done to save the life of the patient from the life-threatening underlying disease. The underlying disease may be benign or malignant, but surely becomes fatal, if pneumonectomy is not done.

Following are the benign disease for which pneumonectomy can be done:

Lung Infection: Normal lung infection may be treated with antimicrobials but in severe cases of lung infection wherein the infection cannot be managed, the physician may advise pneumonectomy. The conditions of lung infection may include chronic lung infection, severe fungal infection, multiple abscesses, tuberculosis and bronchiectasis.

Lung Injury: In the condition of lung injury, the part or whole of the lug is removed.

Congenital Lung Disease: When there is any congenital disease in the lung and the condition is not treated despite medications, pneumonectomy can be done.

Damaged Lung Obstruction: When the already damaged lung is obstructing the functioning of the healthy lung, it should be removed.

Following are the malignant condition in which pneumonectomy should be done:

Tumor. When there is a lung cancer and is not responding to chemotherapy or has the potential to metastasize to other organs, pneumonectomy is done to remove the cancerous lung.


The approach of the medical science is to save the life of the patient, even if the cost paid is the removal of a part of vital organ. Pneumonectomy is one such procedure conducted to remove the damaged lungs. The patient can live the life with one lung, but with certain restrictions which include the significant modification in the lifestyle. The quality of life is reduced after pneumonectomy.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 5, 2018

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