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Chest tube pillow


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Hello All,

My mother is 78 and was diagnosed in November of 2019 with lung cancer. She had her surgery today to remove the upper rt lobe with the VAC procedure. She has a chest tube that is very uncomfortable. The nurse spoke of a Lung support pillow. I have searched the web with no luck. Any suggestions?

My mom is also very swollen due to CO2 seepage. How long before the swelling goes down? 
Thank you for your support. 

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Hi JennO and welcome. I had my lower right lobe removed in November 2016.  I used a foam wedge pillow after I was discharged  from the hospital. It was 12 inches high at the back. It helped me breathe easier and added to my general comfort, but I'm not sure what it did for the discomfort from the chest tube I was discharged the day after surgery with the chest tube still in and connected to a one way valve and a bag. I had the tube in for 10 days because I was still leaking air, Both the quick discharge and being sent home with a tube are fairly unusual.

I assume your mom is in the hospital, If so, they should be helping her with her discomfort. If she needs a "lung support pillow" (not sure what that is) they should help her get one. They should also give her adequate medication for pain control. I found the chest tube painful, at least at first. At the hospital they gave me Toradol, a very high powered Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory. It is given by IV and can only be used short term.  I found it very effective. I gradually learned how to move around to avoid jabs of pain from the chest tube, but it was nover really comfortable and I was glad to have it out.

As far as the swelling, where is it located? There is a kind of swelling from air leaking under the skin which is called crepitus or subcutaneous emphyseima.. I had a little of it when my chest tube was removed. If you press on it it crackles like rice krispies. Mine went away in a day or two. Another forum member had it get worse after she was out of the hospital and she had to go back to have another tube put in. I wonder is this is the swelling your mom has? She should ask the doctor or nurse about it and what to expect from it.

I'm glad you found us! If you have other questions or there are other ways we can support you, let us know. That's what we're here for.

Bridget O

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Hello @JennO.  I used a small, firm coach pillow to carry around after surgery.  It did a few things for me.  It propped my arm up so it wasn’t resting on the chest tube and later the incision area.  That helped while sitting and walking.  I used it to prop up my arm while sleeping as well.  I also squeezed it when I would cough or sneeze.  Your mom is going to need to do a lot of coughing.  It’s part of the healing process.  The pillow will help.  

I second Bridgets recommendation about a firm wedge pillow for bed.  The pillow will keep your moms head elevated while she is in bed.   It helped me a lot.  

The chest tube will likely remain in until the air in your moms chest is cleared out.  That tube is uncomfortable.  It will be less painful when it’s removed.  Mine was removed after three days.  I was petrified to have it removed.  The so Otis kept saying it oils not hurt.  Turns out they were right.  The tube came right out and I felt immediate relief.  

They are pretty rough on your body during surgery.  They put you in strange positions and move your body around a lot in order to perform the procedure.   That plus the obvious trauma of the incisions and removing a lobe of your lung causes a lot of swelling.  It took me about two weeks for the swelling to go down and about a month for it to go away completely.   

The first few days after surgery are tough but she will start to feel better quickly.  Getting the tube out will be the first step in that process.  


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Thank you Bridget! I headed back to the hospital. Being released from the hospital so soon must have been scary. So sorry you had to go through that! Thanks for the advice. 🥰🙏🏻

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