Thymic Resection/Thymectomy


The thymus is a gland that is responsible for proper immune function in the human body. The thymus’ job is to program or educate T-lymphocytes or T-cells to identify and attack foreign substances. The thymus is located in the thoracic cavity in front of the heart and behind the sternum. Like most organs in the body, the thymus gland is vulnerable to cancer and disease. In many cases, these disorders must be treated with thoracic surgery.


Patients with various thymic cancers and about 15% of patients with myasthenia gravis due to a tumor on the thymus (typically benign) are candidates for thymic resection, or thymectomy. Myasthenia gravis patients must first be treated by a neurologist who will likely recommend surgical removal.

Prior to surgery, your doctor may recommend:

  • X-rays
  • Blood and urine analysis
  • Medication
  • Lifestyle changes (special diet, quitting smoking, etc.)

Thymectomy is done under general anesthesia and is usually performed through one of three surgical approaches:

  • Transsternal: Through the breast bone (most common approach)
  • Transcervical: Through a small incision in the neck (this is a minimally-invasive approach and can be done using VATS technology)
  • Transthoracic: Through one or both sides of the chest

Depending on the patient’s condition and surgeon’s approach, thymic resection or thymectomy typically takes between 1-3 hours.


After your procedure is complete, you will be kept in the hospital recovery room and monitored for complications. As your anesthesia wears off, you will be given medication to manage pain.

Typically, you will remain in the hospital for post-op care and supervision for 1-3 days. Once you return home, the recovery may take as little as 1-2 weeks or as long as 3 months. Recovery time depends on the patient and the surgical approach used.

Myasthenia Gravis Patients

Regaining muscle strength may take several months to a few years. After surgery, your neurologist will work with you to identify the balance of therapy and medication to achieve the most rapid and optimal results as possible.

Your Choice is Clear
Riverview Cardiac Surgery have been trusted by more than 10,000 patients to perform surgery for diseases of the lungs and heart. Call to schedule an appointment.