What is a mediastinoscopy?
A mediastinoscopy is surgery done to explore the inside of the upper chest between and in front
of the lungs (mediastinum). This includes the heart and great vessels, the trachea (windpipe),
esophagus (feeding tube), bronchi (airways leading to the lungs), and lymph nodes. This surgery
is often done if your lymph nodes look swollen or large on CT scans or to check for any spread
of a known cancer.
This surgery is done under general anesthesia. Most often it takes 1-2 hours. Once you are
asleep, a tube will be placed down your throat to keep your airway open and help you breathe. A
small incision is made in the upper left chest just above your left collar bone (clavicle). Then, a
small camera is placed through this small incision and into the mediastinum. Small pieces of
your tissue (biopsies) are taken and sent to a pathologist who can look at them under a
microscope and decide whether there is inflammation, infection, or cancer. Once the biopsy is
taken, the tube is removed, and you are woken.
You will be taken to the recovery room. You will be watched for 2-4 hours as the anesthesia
wears off. Most patients go home the same day. Some patients may need to stay overnight.
You may have sutures (stitches), staples, or small steri-strips closing your skin. Steri-strips are
used to keep the skin together and will fall off in 5-7 days. You may shower, but do not take a
tub bath or swim until the incision is healed in 10-14 days.
Will I have pain?
You may have some discomfort or pain at the incision site. Most patients get pain relief with
acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and non-steroidals (i.e. ibuprofen, Motrin®, Advil®). If you still have
pain, you should call your health care provider.
Patients will be able to return to work in a week. Do not lift more 10-15 lbs. for the first 1-2
When to call your doctor
ξ Bleeding from your incision.
ξ A fever over 100.4°F.
ξ Severe chest pain.
ξ Swelling in the neck.
ξ Shortness of breath.
ξ Difficulty swallowing.
ξ Hoarseness of your voice that lasts more than a few days or keeps getting worse.
If you have any questions or problems, please call:
Surgery Clinic at (608) 263-7502, Monday-Friday, 8am – 4:30pm.
After hours, holidays and weekends, this will give you the paging operator. Ask for the Thoracic
Surgery resident on call. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor
will call you back.
If you live outside the area, call toll-free at 1-800-323-8942.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©2/2015. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6262.