Can You Survive with One Lung? 5 Effective Lifestyle Changes

Can you survive with one lung? The human respiratory system is one of the essential parts of our body. The lungs form its most important part. Though we take this whole system for granted it’s the most significant system in our body that keeps us alive. It’s obvious that everyone wants to be healthy but there can be some complexities when one has to lose one of their lungs. Let us talk about this detail and cover all the possibilities, causes, and dangers of surviving with one lung.

1. Why Would Someone Have to Live with One Lung?

man in white dress shirt wearing white goggles
by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash copyrights 2020

Before understanding the complexities of living with one lung or lung removal surgery, we should know the reasons for such a condition. There are many medical conditions under which a patient has to lose a lung entirely or partially. Let’s look at some of the major reasons. 

1.1 Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a major cancer type leading to millions of deaths annually. In some cases, to treat the cancer in the lungs, surgeons can either remove a small portion or all of a lung. This depends on the size of the cancer cells tumor that has spread. So, the affected lung is removed for a better cause.

1.2 Trauma

There can be some accident, fall, or penetrating injury. These can result in lung trauma resulting in the removal of one of the lungs to stop infection. 

1.3 Lung Disease

Many diseases can irreversibly damage the lungs. Some of these diseases include chronic obstructive disease, bronchiectasis, pulmonary fibrosis, etc. 

1.4 Birth Defects

There can be some congenital conditions due to which a person has only one functional lung from birth. 

2. How is a Lung Removed? Understanding Pneumonectomy

doctor and nurse during operation
by National Cancer Insitute / Unsplash copyrights 2020

Pneumonectomy is a surgical method through which a damaged entire lung is removed from the body. This is only done if the problem with the lung is extremely severe and untreatable. It is most commonly used by surgeons to treat lung cancer, such as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In simple terms, it is lung removal surgery. So, at last, you only remain with just one lung.

Before deciding to have a pneumonectomy, your doctor will analyze many of your physical conditions before recommending it. Some of these conditions are as follows:

  1. The location of the tumor and its size
  2. Whether cancer has spread to your lymph nodes or other parts of your body
  3. How well your lungs and heart are working
  4. The state of your health

People who are in poor health or do not have adequate lung function are typically ineligible for a pneumonectomy. 

3. Risks Involved in Lung Removal Surgery

It’s essential to be aware of the risks and complications involved with pneumonectomy. You should discuss with your doctor all the risks involved before your surgery. It is advisable to say that it is a fairly high-risk surgery.

3.1 Surgical Risk

These are very basic possible complications involved in every type of surgery. These are bleeding, infection, and pain. Patients are given antibiotics to prevent them from getting infections. 

3.2 Respiratory Risks

These complications involve difficulty in breathing and pneumonia. Shortness of breath is common after a pneumonectomy, and it may last for some time while the body adjusts to the loss of one lung. The risk of pneumonia rises due to decreased lung capacity and poor mucus clearance from the remaining lung.

3.3 General Health Risks

These complications involve cardiovascular strains and psychological impacts. Coping with the physical and emotional changes that come with only one lung can be difficult, resulting in psychological stress and worry. Long-term concerns such as chronic discomfort, chest wall abnormalities, or persistent breathing problems can happen in certain individuals.

4. Adaptation of Entire Lung to Pneumonectomy

Free An Elderly Couple Meditating in the Park Stock Photo
by Vlada Karpovich / Pexels copyright 2021

When our body loses one part, the other parts enhance their efficiency to cover for the loss. In the same way, when we lose one of our lungs, the other lung goes after several adaptations to give us a healthy life by providing a proper oxygen supply.  

4.1 Expansion of Remaining Lung

After pneumonectomy, the remaining lung increases slightly and takes the place of the other one. Expanding the remaining lungs helps our respiratory system provide a good amount of oxygen as before and our body can function normally. At the starting phase, one can experience shortness of breath but with time your lungs will start getting enough oxygen.

4.2 Adjustments of Diaphragm and Lung Tissue

The diaphragm is the muscle that is responsible for breathing. It adapts with time and enhances its strength and functioning. Now, the healthy lung can inhale more oxygen at a time.

4.3 Change in Breathing Patterns

Patients who have undergone pneumonectomy will have changes in their breathing habits. He will breathe deeper and faster than before. They can also notice abnormal heart rhythms.

While it may take some time to recover fully, many patients who have had a pneumonectomy may resume physical activity and exercise. They can obtain a decent level of fitness with persistent training and recuperation.

5. Lifestyle After Pneumonectomy

Living with one lung requires some changes in adaptation and changes. Here are some of the things that should be followed to have an easy life with one lung. 

5.1 Exercise Regularly

woman in black tank top and black pants sitting on green grass field during daytime
by Benjamin Child / Unsplash copyrights 2020

Physical activity is critical for preserving lung function and general health. Individuals should collaborate with healthcare providers to design an exercise plan that is appropriate for their ability and progressively increases their fitness.

5.2 Stop Smoking 

Quitting smoking is critical if a person smokes before the pneumonectomy. Smoking can increase lung damage and impair the body’s capacity to adapt. It can also cause lung cancer in the other lungs.

5.3 Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises, when learned and practiced, can assist in enhancing lung function and decrease shortness of breath. Respiratory therapists can guide these exercises.

5.4 Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation programs are there to help people with lung diseases improve their lung function and general fitness. Typically, these programs incorporate supervised exercise, information, and support.

5.5 Emotional Support

Coping with the emotional difficulties of living with one lung can be difficult. Individuals should receive the emotional components of their journey with the aid of family, friends, and mental health specialists. It is the most important thing in the recovery process from any health situation.

6. Can You Survive with One Lung? Conclusion

So, pneumonectomy is basically a surgery to remove one lung. Living with one lung is a journey that needs perseverance, determination, and adaptability. While the journey may be difficult, the human body’s incredible ability to adapt, along with advances in medical technology, allows individuals to live happy lives with only one lung. Those who have had a pneumonectomy can continue to breathe, flourish, and enjoy life to the fullest with just one lung. Read more about Lung cancer.

Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by Soujanee