I'm a 53 yo male and had open-heart mitral valve repair five weeks ago. For the first 2 1/2 weeks I had zero pain in my sternum and chest. During that time I thought wow, this is a cinch!But then I started having discomfort and then pain. First it was a tightness in my pec muscles, starting about an inch from my sternum and outward toward my shoulders. It felt like something was hanging off of chest. My ribs near the sternum were also sore and tender to touch. Then I started to feel moderate pressure, as if someone was sitting on my chest (lightly). Around that time I also started to feel pain in my actual sternum whenever I did very light activities with my arms, including lifting a smartphone, pressing my spoon down into semi-soft ice cream in a cup, picking up a pillow, etc. The discomfort and pain have been pretty constant since, maybe increasing slightly over time. I'm told by the doctors and nurses this is normal, that it takes 6-8 weeks for the sternum to initially heal. I'm confused about how I can be pain free for 2 1/2 weeks after surgery and then have pain doing the simplest of things. It makes me concerned that my sternum healing as taken a turn for the worse.
Anyone else experience this type of pain progression after their open heart surgery?
Hi Billy,I had quintuple bypass surgery four and a half years ago. I did not have the post-op discomfort you describe, but I did have some left pectoral muscle tightness that began maybe two months post-op and went away on its own after a couple of months. It likely was scar tissue formation from removal if my left mammary artery used to graft my left anterior descending coronary artery. I also developed some discomfort at the bottom of my sternum if I put pressure on it but was assured it was nothing.
I know you spoke to doctors and nurses about your discomfort, but did that include speaking to your thoracic surgeon? They use what a cardiologist friend of mine described as "basically baling wire" to hold your sternum together and the healing process around the wire can cause pain and discomfort. I would check with the surgeon just to make sure there isn't some non-routine issue like infection that requires treatment.Best of luck and place keep us posted.Ira
Thanks @Ira Reid @IRA NEWMAN and @Carrie Kashani! I have a follow-up with the surgeon next week and will ask about it. I've been following all the sternal restrictions very closely.
I forgot to mention I typically only feel this when I'm standing up. I rarely feel discomfort and pain when lying down and sitting.
Hey Billy, I just wanted to let you know I have had similar results as you. I had tricuspid repair and VSD repair and I was smooth sailing easy peasy for the first several weeks and then I started cardiac rehab and started having lots of pain in the sternum area. I wasnt sure if it was heart pain or sternum pain or both. I am 7 weeks post op today and it is getting better and then sometimes it gets worse.
I dont have any advice, my doctor also is not concerned and said to treat it wil NSAIDs or Tylenol as needed. I take 200 to 400 mg Ibuprophen once per day to deal with the pain.Has your experience improved?
Hi @Ronald Haggerty,Thanks for sharing. I'n at 11 weeks now and the pain in my sternum is pretty much gone. The biggest improvement happened around week 8. I still get somewhat frequent bouts of rib cage pain though, which my GP says is costochondritis. This manifests as pain and tenderness to the touch. It happens most often when I'm sitting for long periods of time with my back against a firm couch. It used to also occur when I would lay more horizontally in bed but that doesn't happen anymore.
Good luck on your recovery!