Thoracotomies in children have been less extensively studied, as the incidence of diseases necessitating thoracotomies is low in the pediatric age group. This study reviews childhood thoracic diseases, thoracotomy approaches, indications, and complications. Surgical procedures and complications of a total of 196 children below 16 years of age who underwent thoracotomy for various reasons at the Department of Thoracic Surgery, Ataturk Chest Diseases and Chest Surgery Training and Research Hospital, between January 2000 and December 2004, were reviewed in this study. Out of the 196 patients, 77 were female (39%) and 119 (61%) were male. The most commonly encountered indications for surgery were hydatid cyst (35%), bronchiectasis (25%), chronic nonspecific pleuritis (13%), chest wall deformities (10%), and mediastinal cystic formations and masses (10%). The other indications included tuberculosis (3%), aspergilloma (0.5%), fibrohyalinized cyst (0.5%), resection of trachea (0.5%), bronchogenic cyst (0.5%), inflammatory pseudo-tumor (0.5%), sequestration (1%), lipoblastoma (0.5%), and eosinophilic granuloma (1%). Out of the 196 patients, 176 underwent lateral thoracotomy and 20 patients with a chest wall deformity underwent midsternal incision. Complications were seen in 35 patients (18%): atelectasia and secretory retention (54%), wound infection (17%), hemorrhage (3%), chylothorax (3%), intrathoracic space (3%), and postoperative extended air leakage (20%). The mean hospital stay was 15 days and we did not encounter any mortality. The physiology and anatomy of the respiratory system and especially the respiratory control mechanism in pediatric patients vary from those of the adults, resulting in a more morbid course after thoracic surgery in children. Despite severe postoperative pain, posterolateral thoracotomy is the preferred approach in adults because of an advanced intrathoracic exposure and easy manipulation. On the other hand, lower pain threshold and the different types of diseases seen in children make lateral thoracotomy a more appropriate choice for thoracotomy, which, at the same time, spares the serratus anterior muscle decreasing its negative impact on postoperative respiratory function.