CHEST PAIN NOT CARDIAC AFTER OPEN HEART SURGERY

8 weeks after open heart surgery, I am having a constant pulling, painful sensation on the right side of my chest, made much worse by sneezing or coughing. So far physicians tell me just to give it time, but I am taking daily pain meds, having problems getting rest and just want some answers.

Edited November 5, 2009 at 2:42 pm

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I had open heart surgery 6 yrs ago. You may have had a chest tube placed after surgery this area may need time to heal. Your chest muscles, ribs all need time to heal. Gave yourself a break you had major surgery. Do some breathing exercise. Take a walk if you need to. Take Care. cyg

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Please insist on x-rays to check the wires in your sternum. Sometimes they can pull loose or move out of place closer to the skin than is comfortable. That said, the sternum does take time to properly fuse. I had continued sternum pain for months after my surgery. I had mine in late December, 2007. In March x-rays were done due to my continued pain. My wires were actually fine. But my pain continued. So, I went back to my surgeon in April and he patted my hand as he ordered a CT scan of my sternum, just for my "peace of mind" he said. Imagine his surprise to see a gap about 1/2" long and about 1/4" wide at the top of my sternum. It had never fused completely in that little section and a callous had formed that was causing friction and pain with my every move. The only option was going back in, reopening my sternum, filing away the callous and both sides of the sternum to promote completely fusion. No thanks. Too risky with no guarantee it wouldn't do it again. I had to wait it out. I was able to get into a legitmate pain management clinic that monitored me on a low dose synthetic narcotic until my sternum finally fused completely, almost a full year post op.

The moral to my story is that if you feel like something is wrong and the pain you are in is affecting your life, insist that that check it out completely. My surgeon was stunned that there had been a real reason for my complaint. He never expected it. He had seen it before, but said it is very, very rare. Well, my pain was very, very real and I didn't have to suffer that long.

Take care and welcome to WomenHeart -
Dianna

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Hi and welcome here,

8 weeks is still very soon in the recovery stage of sternum healing, scar tissue formation. Did you get checked for low grade fever? It is important to rule out inflammation, costochodritis and pericardium infection/excess fluid pressure.

Please keep checking in here. Dianna has lots of helpful info to share and other women here may be able to offer something that doctors won't be aware of or have time to investigate.

take good care and hope you get relief very soon,
Jaynie

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I am 11 weeks out from triple bypass. I have had pain that sounds very similar. It is on top of my right breast and really HURTS. When I cough or sneeze it is very sharp, sometimes even taking a deep breath hurts. I asked both my surgeon and cariologist and they both said to give my muscles time. I also started rehab around the same time so I think it is just a muscle that is very sore. This all began around 9 weeks and this last week it has been so much better as time is passing. I have been very careful about lifting and pacing myself. I agree that if you feel something is not right don't hesitate to ask your doctors again. Especially if after a few weeks it does not ease at all. I really feel for you and hope you are doing better. This surgery is really hard.
Hannah

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Penjudy, Always check with your doctor. However major surgery pain can last for months. My surgeon told me these things take time. Even 6 years later I feel a little pain now and then when the weather changes, its a reminder I suppose. I remember hugging my chest pillow and this helped ease the pain. Hang in there it will get better. Do make sure of there is no fever. If the pain is severe go straight to the emergency room. Don't be afraid to bother anyone -get your questions answered. There is always a chance of a clot in the lung. Take care and God Bless. Chris

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It took a long time for my chest pains to subside. They do take a mammary vein from your chest for graft use, as well as out of your leg. The left side of my chest was numb for many months and then you deal with nerve regeneration for years afterward. There are multiple changes. But, for severe pain that requires medication for relief, I think you need to get it checked out and make them take you seriously.

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Such great advice from everyone! I am 10 months out and I still have pain - mostly left sided where they took the mammary artery. I am also a musician and it hurts to take a deep breath at times, definitely hurts to press on it ( I know - don't press on it - hee, hee) - but acupuncture has helped and I figure it is just going to take time. According to the literature it can take up to 2 years. yeah,,,,,

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I am 11 weeks after aortic valve replacement and 10 weeks from pacemaker implantation and I STILL have significant "discomfort" at both the pacemaker incision as well as my sternum. Coughing and sneezing still bother me quite a bit and even laying flat causes pain at the top 2 inches of my sternum.

I thought maybe I was just being a "wuss" but now feel as though maybe I will speak to my doctor about it.

Best of luck to you, I hope you get comfortable soon.

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Don't forget, they also cut into your chest muscles, spread the rib cage wide open and your shoulder is so turned the wrong way the entire time. You will get all kinds of pains, pulling, sharp, knife-like and of course you can feel those wires right at the top of your first rib in the sternum. That drove me crazy for years. Not to mention when the nerves start to regenerate, sometimes for 5-6 years afterwards.

Isn't life grand? :)

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I so wished I had found this a week ago...even last night when I just had a good cry from the frustration and pain....i've had this right from surgery, July 24 2009 and just figured it was all part of it and would go away.....but it hasn't though I've had better times than others.
About a month ago i was climbing a set of stairs under remodeling and they went out from under me and I fell backwards and ended up in bed for two weeks and slowly getting on my feet again, and of course this pain issue has resurfaced like it was three months ago...in other words I've taken two steps back it seems...and wasn't sure if I had torn something, made it worse, was being a wuss, you know the drill...
well finally had first cardio appt. four months after surgery (he cancelled twice) and found that indeed top half of sternum not as closed as would like and the wires are right there...and in pressing on my chest near the heart area it HURTS.
He mumbles so wasnt sure what he called it at first but he put me on anti-inflammatory that is hard on the stomach and means I cant take my regular one for the arthritis I've always had it seems...but been trying to deal with that pretty well.
I have fibromyalgia and had pluersy about 12 years ago so lets just say I ache...but this is scary because you always have in the back of your mind that it's heart related....
I had a valve replacement and repair to aortic stenosis....
and i'm also terrible at sitting around and thought that this heart surgery would totally change things so I could get back to doing what I could before the stenosis and even fibro (what was I thinking) but it isn't going as fast as I want and i'm stuck at home alone alot and am going nuts....and I guess it's just sinking in now what I've been through and I'm not good at letting down my guard...tried to keep up everyone's hope and spirits before and after surgery so the kids and my partner weren't worried...is that normal to feel down four months after the surgery?
Anyway thank yo so much for the info here cause I couldn't find the name of this condition nor anyone else who had had it....
I feel a bit better tonight!!

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I am almost 2 years out from bypass x4 (December 19 will be my 2-year anniversary!). A few months ago I bought an ab-lounger, thinking I would get my abs back in shape. Well, every time I have used it I get a pain right where you're describing. I don't have the pain when I do ab crunches on the rug or when I do anything else, only when I use the ab-lounger. Now, why that happens, I don't know, but I'm getting rid of the ab lounger. Anyone interested in a free ab lounger? LOL Another time I have pain is when the weather changes...this pain is right in the sternum where my incision is....for a day or two when the weather changes from dry (which is normal here in AZ) to humid, I will have the pain. WHen the weather changes back to dry, I will also have it a little bit. Now that it is cold, I will have it a little bit. (COld is a relative term -- cold is 65 degrees here in the desert). Neither of these pains requires pain medicine, but I just know they're there. The right chest muscle pain is very odd, and I don't have it when I don't do the ab lounger. Easy fix -- quit the ab lounger. HA HA

So, what I'm trying to say is, most probably you will feel twinges of pain from time to time for quite a while. Like I said, it's been 2 years for me. And when I say pain, I don't mean P A I N -- I mean, just a little discomfort here and there. It doesn't even really bother me much, just the knowledge that it's there. And if this is the worst that I ever get after open heart surgery, that will make me SMILE.......it's certainly better than another heart attack!!!

Best wishes to you in your recovery. This really does get better!

Dana in AZ

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