Trapped lung is defined by the inability of the lung to expand and fill the thoracic cavity because of a restricting "peel." This restriction may be secondary to a benign inflammatory or fibrotic cortex or to a malignant visceral pleural tumor. This condition has a significant impact on the patient's quality of life by causing dyspnea. This article discusses the role of surgery in relieving the trapped lung, including decortication in benign disease and pleurectomy in malignant disease. The surgical approaches of video-assisted thoracoscopy and thoracotomy are contrasted and the future potential for surgical trials in this condition is outlined.
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