Deep buring pain after open heart surgery

I had open heart surgery 6 weeks ago; I by now that I would be feeling relief from the pain and discomfort associated to the post-operative recovery. In the last weeks, I have been feeling a very deep and painful "burning sensation" on the skin around my chest area. This burning sensation worsens at night and it keeps me up for hours. During the day, it is a bit less painful, but it still does not allow me to rest.
Does anyone know what could cause this? Is this normal during recovery? Maybe an allergic reaction? Doctors have prescribed me various medications but nothing seems to be working.

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I don't know what causes the burning you feel, but it took me about a year for all the pain to go away. It also took me over a year for the regenerating nerves to stop hurting and the numbness took longer than that to leave me.

Everyone is different, though. 6 weeks is very early to not expect any type of pain. Have you seen your surgeon? He may have a clue as to why you're burning. He knows what kind of elements he placed in your chest.

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I agree that 6 weeks is very soon after surgery to see much relief from the discomfort. Everyone heals at their own pace. In addition to the incision area, you essentially have strained ribs, ligaments and muscles in your chest and back, nerve damage from the surgery etc. I'm a year out from open heart surgery and still have tingling (is this maybe the "burning" you are feeling?) and numbness. Definitely ask your surgeon, but I suspect that what you are feeling is quite normal at this point.

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Hi Artiste,
Thanks for your response. I do feel the tingling, and I wish it were tingling sensation what I feel; it is waaayyy more than that. It's deep burning at my skin level, it's as if someone were stabbing or cutting my skin in small pieces. I was up last night from about 1:00 a.m. and maybe got about 1/2 hour of sleep altogether. Very sensitive to any type of clothing rubbing my skin, even when I touch my skin with my fingertip it hurts. I attended a Women's Heart Alert conference this morning at Cleveland Clinic FL to give my testimony, and there I had a chance to see my surgeon and my primary doctor. They said that if in a few days, once I finish this one medication with esteroid for strong allergies, if I don't see improvement, they'll refer me to see an Allergy Specialist. God bless you and thanks for your response.

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I totally agree with you that 6 weeks is very early not to feel any type of pain; to me it seems as if my surgery was just a couple of weeks ago. There are morning when I wake up feeling as if I had been ran over by a truck! And this deep burning sensation/pain does not help at all. As you mentioned, doctors have told me that it could be the regenerating of the nerve ends which at times are affected during surgery, but I cannot imagine having these symptoms for a year, not even another week! It's torture, I can't sleep during day/night, it's painful when clothing rubs/touches my skin, and even more painful if I try to wear a bra. Was your process of nerves regeneration this painful? or was it somewhat tolerable/manageable? I truly appreciate your response! Be blessed!

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i had my open heart surgery on 11/24/2009 and have a raised keloid over the incision. the keloid did not appear until about 7 weeks after the surgery. however, prior to the keloid surfacing, i did have those burning sensations and pain around the incision.

now pain shoots through the keloid and it itches quite frequently. at the present, i cut a piece of aloe vera plant at night and squeeze it over the keloid. during the day, i rub mango oil and cocoa butter over it. those provide me the most relief.

have been told by a friend who had a c section that she has a raised keloid and that it was about 1 year before it healed.

will talk to my doctors at my next scheduled visit in 2 weeks.

hope you feel better.


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yr, I could not wear my bra for over a year and I barely could wear a small bathing suit top that never touched the skin. I had exactly what you're experiencing. I wore my late husband's xlg t shirts with the front cut open so nothing touched my skin. I couldn't stand even putting Vit E on the scar, it hurt so badly. This is why you need cardiac rehab. They teach you how to cope with the pain and it should get better the more you expose your scar to the air. Also, I couldn't lie down for 2 months after and if I did, it had to be on my side with my small dog lying up against my chest to keep it warm. She has very soft fur. It's just something you learn to live with - I figured it's a small price to pay for being alive and having a future.

As was stated, some don't have to wait a year, some wait longer. It's all up to how you look at the surgery, the scar, the pain and your life. You do need support, so please come back.

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Oh and nerves are always involved during open heart surgery. Everyone has this problem, believe me.

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I am 5 months out from aortic valve replacement and still have what I now refer to as "awareness" of the sternum/incision area. It started out as pain then downgraded to discomfort now awareness.

Not sure I would have described my feelings like yours but I did/do have what feels like bee stings and I have been told it is nerves.

I hope you find some relief soon, hang in there and best wishes,


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So sorry you are going through this.
May I ask what type of open heart surgery you had and how long your incision was?
I am scheduled for open heart surgery and see from some of the replies this "burning pain" sensation goes with the territory? I'm wondering if everyone who has had open heart surgery has this.
I hope I don't and am glad you brought it up. I will discuss it with my physician.
Needless to say I am terrified with the whole idea of surgery and especially anesthesia. did you have any adverse effects from that? I just hope I wake up! that is my greatest fear.
I am a young 70 year woman and in excellent health other than my severe leaky valves! I have no symptoms and hope I'm doing the right thing. Surgery, sooner than later is what my Dr. advises.
Thank you for any advice you or anyone can offer.
I am going to have mitral/tricuspid valve repair, due to severe mitral valve prolapse.
All best to you....hope your recovery from this is very soon.

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Hello jbrown,
To answer your questions: I had quintuple open heart surgery (5 bypasses replaced most with approx. 90 blockage). Doctors say that I was a "walking miracle." My incision is about 6-7 inches long. My doctors have told me that this burning sensation could be due to nerve ends that are sometimes affected during surgery (I've been given medication for it). Another version is that it could be some sort of allergy (I was prescribed lodacaine patches to alliviate the pain/burning, and another prescription to treat sever allergy) which I've been taking for a couple of days now, and this last one seems to be working better - I was finally able to get a few hours of sleep last night!!!! Praise God!
Yesterday I was invited to attend a Women's Healthy Heart Awareness Conference at Cleveland Clinic FL, where I was asked to speak and give my testimony about my experience as a 49 year old women who apparently had no symptoms, but yet with a very strong family history of heart disease. I explained that it was very shocking for me to hear, after the cath procedure, that I needed immediate open heart surgery. At that moment I was confronted with a major decision: go back/ignore the issue and go into denial, or face the facts/get courage and go through the process that would potentially extend my years of life. At that moment, my strong faith in the Lord kept me going, gave me strength, and filled my whole being with the peace of God that surpasses ALL human understanding during times of affliction. Just as you, one of my greatest fears was the whole thought of the anesthesia, the thought of whether or not I would be able to open my eyes again and see the sunlight, my family, my home, my friends.... all this is a normal process of our human nature, but again, that's when faith played such an important part in my life. I surrendered my life to God, I felt His peace, and deep inside of me I understood that that even though my human nature would choose not to go through with the surgery, it was the best alternative; I was like at a point of no return. I also thought about the whole process of recovery, but then again, I my thoughts were renewed to think that if I made it that far it would be because I'd be alive and I would be grateful if I made it that far! ... and here I am, 6 weeks later, going through the recovery process - not an easy one, but making it through day by day by God's grace and mercy. I understand that everyone's recovery is different, but whatever the outcome, I am alive and recovering, with dreams and hopes for a better and healthier "me," looking forward to the wonderful things that God has in store for me through whatever more years of life He grants me, for which I will forever be grateful!!! I encourage you to be courageous and of strong faith. You mention that doctors have advised you surgery sooner than later - in that case, I'd say that sooner would be a better option than later. Again, be strong and courageous to go through the process! God bless you. yr.

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Hello Asurvivor,
Thanks for your advices, indeed, I'm scheduled to attend cardiac rehab orientation next week and I'm looking forward to it. You mentioned that you couldn't lie down for 2 months but that you could on your side, well - with me it's been the other way around - even at this point, after 6 weeks, I am unable to lie on my side, my chest feels tight/stiff when I try to do so. I totally agree with you that this whole process we go through, each one of us in our own ways, is a small price to pay for being alive. To God be all the honor and the glory! Thanks for your continued feedback! yr

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Hello RAS41,
By all of the responses, and yours, I see that many of us do go through this burning process, as as Asurvivor mentioned (and my surgeon also mentioned it to me), nerves and nerve ends are indeed affected during surgery. I have not developed a keloid, but often times I also feel stabbing pain shoots on my incision and all around it. A couple of weeks ago, in my desperation to get relief from the burning sensation, I bought a leaf of aloe vera plant and rubbed the pieces all over my chest area; it did provide temporary relief, but it got to a point that I called my doctor and visited a dermatologist who is now treating me with ladocaine patches and another prescription with steroids, which I've been trying for a couple of days now and for the first time in a couple of weeks I can say that I was able to sleep a few hours last night without the pain keeping me awake, so it seems that this new prescription is working. Thank you for sharing your experience, it is such a blessing to have this line of communication where we can all share our stories and learn from each other! God bless you.

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Hi purple66,
Thanks for your feedback, yes, as time goes by and I'm able to read everyone's responses, I can understand that indeed there is so much that goes go "behind the scenes" - per say - during open heart surgery. Like my surgeon told me and as Asurvivor mentioned, this whole process involves muscles, tendons, bones, "and nerve ends" that's why the recovery is so complex. I have also felt the "bee stings" during this healing process; and I am grateful for the healing process, I am going through the motions and I'm holding on to God's mercies that are new every morning - one day at a time.
God bless you.

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I have to second everything Asurvivor has shared with you. I had sensations that drove me out of my skin for months after triple bypass surgery. Just the sheet in my bed brushing up against my scar would send me into orbit. Even today, a little over 2 years post op, I have some nerve damage resulting in burning and electrical misfiring of the nerves - nothing I can't live with it at all, but a reminder of my surgery nontheless.

Any time your body goes through the most traumatic surgery a human can endure, you have to expect it will take time to heal. If you want a humorous take on healing, please check out my journal entry titled "What Must the Neighbor's Think?" on how my scar drove me to distraction.

Vitamin E oil does help the burning a lot. Even this far out from surgery I use it about once every 2 weeks.

Take care -

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I, too, had chest pain for many months after my CABGx4 two years ago. I could not sleep on my side for almost a year, and I couldn't sleep FLAT on my back for many months. I had to have several pillows propping me up, because if I ended up flat, I ended up in pain!!! It was pretty irritating for quite a while! I was so proud of myself the first time I was able to sleep on my side without pain!!

I still have problems with slight pain when it rains or turns humid outdoors (I live in Arizona where it's normally very DRY). Kind of like an arthritic pain in my sternal area where the incision is. But it's not debilitating or anything, just THERE.

Take care of yourself -- this too shall pass!!!

Dana in AZ

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I have had multiple surgeries, involving various body parts and thought I was prepared. Nothing compares to the recuperation period and 6 to 7 weeks out of work isn't really long enough. I'm 2 years out now and still experiencing infrequent pain from buried sutures. Pieces occasionally rise to the surface. The good news is that you live through it and it does get better. Injected steroids can definitely flatten the keloids.


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Dana, I have to correct myself. I started off sleeping on 4 pillows, sitting up, for the first month I was home, then gradually slipped to my left side. I couldn't take laying flat. I'm 9 yrs out (always think 10, don't know why) but I just now can sleep with one pillow.

Everyone experiences the pains and stinging and bee stings and numbness for as long as it takes them to heal. I keloid as well, but they did such a great job on my incision, it's not that bad.

Yr, you must be super sensitive to even the slightest nerve regeneration. I'm surprised your not still all numb! Once you start rehab, you'll feel better. The numbness took over a year to leave me, but when it did, I never noticed it left. It's just another day.

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I had double bypass and it has been about 4 months. Since 2 months I have developed two problems:

1) severe irritation and burning on the chest area that I cannot touch any clothing on it.

2) Whenever I sit on a chair or a sofa or get up after lying down I get stiffness on my chest as if it has become a piece of steel or metal. But the strange thing is If I walk for about 15-20 minutes, this stiffness goes away. But the moment I sit again, it comes back.

I have seen dermatologists, and used a number of creams, and cortiosol packs, and did not get any relief. I will welcome any recommendations or suggestions.

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Bulandi: Your post describes my symptoms exactly. When I get home from work, I take my shirt off and do not put one back on until I leave for work in the morning. I walk 4 miles a day shirtless and I do not feel the irritation at all. The walking makes me feel better. Go figure.

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Thanks for your reply PRman. I, too, get my work shirt off when I get home from work and wear a v-neck cotton top. In the last 2 weeks, I have not been doing much walking (I know I should). I was doing about 1 mile/day, but now I'm down to 1/2 mile. I still feel a combination of pain/discomfort and numbness on my left leg. Today has been an awful day for me; I couldn't even make it to work. I've felt as if I were 1 month post-op (it's been 5 months now). I went to see a doctor this morning and she told me there's nothing she can do because I've been prescribed everything there is to take for nerve damage - said that it's something tat takes time :(

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