Recovering from heart surgery & Q. about cold spells

Dearest Heart Sisters,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I had heart surgery at Stanford a couple weeks ago for my myocardial bridge. I had an unroofing procedure to release an artery that was compressed by the bridge.

I had a 3rd cath a few weeks before heart surgery and my cardio and her team saw the artery in spasm due to it being compressed. No wonder I was in constant pain for such a long time. As many of you know I was able to do less and less and my pain was increasing more & more before the surgery. My cardio listened and referred me for additional testing (stress echo and cath) to evaluate my myocardial bridge.

Since the surgery, some of the symptoms I felt are completely gone, like the back pressure/tightness I was feeling in daily, regular episodes throughout the day. My left arm symptoms have improved, as well as the unrelenting chest tightness & pressure. I still feel a little chest pain. It’s hard to distinguish if it’s incisional, sternal or chest discomfort from the surgery. There have been a few instances where I knew it was a chest cramp.

My cardio and CT surgeon told me it is normal to feel some of my old symptoms because it will take time for my heart to heal from all that it’s been through. The artery was compressed for a very long time. I wonder if the bridge and the compression caused the endothelial dysfunction I had within my bridge. It is noted that I have a little ED outside my bridge too. Anyway, that will all take time to heal.

I do wonder if endothelial dysfunction can be healed. At best, I know it can be managed & stabilized. I just want to have more pain free days, resume the activities I enjoyed, regain my activity level and not have “pain” be a constant in my life.

I am off all my previous meds like Bystolic, Ranexa & nitro spray, although I can use nitro spray if needed. I see both my docs this coming week and meds will be evaluated at that point. I am taking vitamins & supplements which include Vitamin C. My cardio states that Vitamin C has been shown to improve endothelial function. It also reduces inflammation. With that said I am doing my best to eat a healthy, balanced diet filled with fruits & veggies.

Healing will take time and only time will tell the full results of the surgery. I do feel surgery was beneficial. I have to be patient and optimistic. I am so grateful for my health care team, family, friends & my heart sisters. I thank god every day.

One symptom I am feeling is what I describe as a sudden onset of cold spells/chills especially in the evening. I will be fine when suddenly I get very cold. My teeth start to chatter cold. It’s like a chill takes over and I make my way into bed to get under the covers and get warm. I feel like I can’t get enough blankets on me. And sometimes as many as 3 blankets aren’t enough. I even put on double socks to warm up.
My mom said to put a pair of knee high socks on my hands too :)'...... Gotta love mom's advice. It worked though. The knee hi socks covered my arms too and brought about instant warmth.

I don’t have a fever or infection, it’s just I get very cold. It can take up to ½ an hour to get warm. I wonder if my body is trying to regulate itself or if something is off balance. I did have to have a blood transfusion while at the hospital due to low red cell count. I was just a little anemic prior to the surgery, so am unsure if it’s anemia or what. I will address this with my doctor’s, but just wondered if any of my heart sisters got the chills or cold spells.

Much love, health and blessings to you all.
Swiss

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23 replies. Join the discussion

I have heard that trouble with "thermoregulation" is normal after open heart surgery. I had night sweats and cold spells and all sorts of temperature issues. My mother always said "put on a hat", lol. Good luck!

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I assume your heart was stopped and you were on a heart/lung machine? That would also mean your body temp was dropped significantly; I forget how low it is, but it is low. I was cold a lot after valve replacement surgery, and I am usually not cold. Heck, it's been 2 years now, and I still feel cold in the house most of the time during winter and I love in southern CA, not one of the colder spots on the map.

You may also want to have your thyroid checked (TSH); being cold is a classic sign of hypothyroidism, and sometimes surgery and meds can bring that about.

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I don't have any experience with heart surgeries, but I am just so happy to
see you here, it makes my heart full!
Hugs to you....
Katie

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I don't have any insight on the cold spells since I haven't had to have open heart surgery (yet). I'm interested to keep reading what the ladies who have been there have experienced. On the healing of endothelial dysfunction, I think we're in such an early stage of even finding out what it is that they don't really know. The EECP is theorized to help endothelial dysfunction by applying shearing forces to the walls of the vessels when it forces blood back up to the heart. My personal experience with it is that it improved my exercise tolerance and energy level but did not improve my chest pain. Not sure what that says. We might be able to look to the experiences of women with chronic migraines...there is more info out there on that. There seems to be changes over the lifespan with that condition with flares and remissions at different times of life. I suspect hormone related since some people improve with pregnancy and worsen with menopause. It's an interesting question.

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Hi,

It is so great to see you back on board Swissdots,
I am glad to hear your surgery went well and that at least some of the previous symptoms are either gone or reduced .
After my open heart surgery I also had spells where I was very, very cold. It was interesting to see your post as I really hadn't thought too much about it . I just guessed it was due to all the trauma and a big weight loss from being in ICU etc.

All my best for lots more healing now and future good health,
Linda

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Hello Swiss,

I don't know if you are taking Coumadin or not, but.....Coumadin carries the side effect of cold intolerance and paresthesias (which includes feeling cold and getting chills).

I've been taking Coumadin since 1986, and it definitely causes me to feel cold (especially my hands & feets). The only thing that I've found to help me stay warm is dressing in layers.

Best wishes & blessings on your road to recovery. Take care & keep warm.

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Hi Swiss Dots! What a breath of fresh air and beam of golden sunshine you are!!! It is so good to hear from you, and to know that you are healing and feeling better than before your surgery. I wish you all the best now and forever!
Now, as for the cold thing-- I, too had shivering, racking cold sensations after my surgery, too. It lasted for about a year, and I still, after nearly three years, haven't really gotten back to normal. I think, (unsubstantiated by science), that it has something to do with having been on the heart-lung bypass machine. My thermoregulation never seems to have returned. I get way too hot and way too cold.
It's just the way things are for me now. Thankfully, the shivers and shakes have declined to nearly zero.
I am interested in what your cardio's have to say.
ED is a really interesting phenomenon, as yarnkitty wrote, (above). I'm an old migraineur, and have experienced a decrease, almost a complete stop of my migraines after my CABG. I'm post menopausal (post complete hysterectomy) and know that once the hormones turned off, the headaches did too. But, paradoxically, my angina and ED showed up right about then too. Go figure. I look forward to more research and explanations, and (who knows?) maybe even a cure? In the meanwhile, management and maintainance seem to be the most sensible way forward.
Time to sing the Halleluliah chorus! Welcome back!
LOVE,
Melissa

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Everyone: It is SO nice to hear from you again. It makes me feel happy.

Antigone: Yes, I was on the heart /lung machine. Thanks for the info

Yarn Kitty: I hope research and our experiences brings about information and effective treatments for Endothelial Dysfunction. Treatments that stop the chest pain and heal the root cause.
When I was on Ranexa it increased my activity tolerance and energy, but I couldn't use the tolerance and energy that I had. If I moved I'd get tightness/pressure and at times chest pain. What good is the tolerance & energy if I can't use it? It sounds strange but that's what it did for me. It also lessened my chest pain. It quieted my chest pain is what it did. When you described the EECP treatment, I immediately thought that's how I felt on Ranexa.
With that said, I think Ranexa helped and if I wasn't on it I would have been unable to work and been couch/bedridden.
Do you think Ranexa is helping you?
I realize with my bridge that medications couldn't help what needed and was surgically corrected.

Everyone, I appreciate your feedback on the cold spells. Helpful to know I am not alone.
Warmly (no pun intended), Swiss

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Hi Swiss. I think Ranexa is having a minor effect if any. Who knows, I might notice more difference if I go off it for a while. Heading to the cardiologist's office in a few to discuss that issue.

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swissdots-

I had trouble with the same thing after my aortic valve replacement surgery. The thing that made it especially unusual is that I was (and am again) a very warm blooded person who is almost always too warm rather than cold. It seemed to subside after a couple of months.

So glad to hear your surgery went well and I hope you experience even more relief when you are healed.

Best Wishes,

Jeanne

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Ever since my total hysterectomy 12 years before my CABG, I was HOT, hot, HOT! Then I had my CABG and suddenly I was COLD, cold, COLD all the time! Now, 4 years post CABG, my body is intolerant to heat AND cold. I have no doubt that something about the surgery has set my body's ability to regulate my temperature askew. When I asked my cardiologist about that post-op, he acted like he'd never heard of such a thing, but seemed to think it was nothing to worry about. Yet, I see from reading the comments in response to you that it isn't all that uncommon. I just keep a blanket and a fan handy, depending on the season. Sometimes it is two or three blankets, a heating pad, and a microwave pack. Sometimes it is two fans and an ice pack.
In addition to generally feeling colder than normal on occasion, one symptom that started immediately after my CABG and has NOT improved at all is my right arm from shoulder to fingertips will turn ICE cold. Literally ice cold. It does not pale out, does not turn blue, pulse in wrist is good tho hard to find. It just becomes a cold as ice. My husband cannot believe how cold it is when he touches it. I can cover in a ton of blankets and nothing helps it. The ONLY way I can rewarm it is by using an electric heating pad, a microwaved pad, or standing in a HOT shower. Then it will slowly warm up. I tried to wait it out but after about 45 minutes I was hurting from the cold so much that I had to warm it up. I was really worried at first, but my doctors said they'd never heard of that and weren't worried so I choose to just live with it. Anyone else experience this?
Life continues . . .

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I have had trouble with getting cold, but it started before I was diagnosed. I still tend to get so cold when I come out of the swimming pool that I start shivering so hard I cannot stop. I also had a lot of trouble with sweating, so I would be cold and sweating at the same time. Once I started my heart medications, both problems were greatly reduced.

I decided that it was my internal thermostat had gotten too sensitive, along with everything else. I have noticed that I have to dress very carefully in extreme heat or cold, or...!!!

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Hi, Swiss. I'm so glad you're feeling a little better, except for the cold spells, of course. I was interested in seeing that you went to Stanford for your treatment. I, too, was in Stanford for surgery in September. The ICU and nursing staff is just amazing and I felt lucky to be so well cared for. I, also, had a "cardiac team" for the A-Fib I went into after surgery. They prescribed a mess of meds (too many, the amounts had to be adjusted immediately after I reached home) and I have no idea who they are. I was given no follow-up appt or even a name written down - but the same thing happened with my endo "team", so I think it's just a teaching hospital thing.

I'm having some chest pain and thinking I might like to go back to Stanford to have it checked out. Can you give me the name of your doctor and can I just call to make an appt? I was referred to Stanford originally and my first vascular surgeon made the appt., so I really don't know what the procedure is without a direct referral. I live in the Valley, south of Sacramento, and I really like my cardiologist here, but he no longer does surgery or even goes to the hospital (geez, he's older than I am - and that's pretty old) and I don't like any of the other doctors in the practice and we don't even talk about the billing office. So, if you feel up to it, maybe you can give me an idea of how best to wend your way through the Standford maze (hell, I still get confused trying to find the Vascular Clinic there). LOL

Thanks

Sharon

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Hi Sharon,
Thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds like you've been through quite alot healthwise. Sorry to hear about your current symptoms. You're doing the right thing in making an appt for an evaluation of your chest pain. I wish many gentler days ahead.

I would be happy to provide you with the name & contact phone# of my Cardiologist. She is quite extraordinary and is superbly talented in all regards. I love her, she is cardiac brilliance! Her name is Dr. Jennifer Tremmel, Appt #: (650) 723-6459. She also has an amazing staff of colleagues who would be worth seeing too.

Feel free to send me a PM and I'd be more than happy to help you with any other info. It can call be overwhelming & confusing . It helps to have a helping hand.
Best- Swiss

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My christmas present! Thank you so much. Yeah, it does help - especially at Stanford. I'll call after the holiday - I want to do some experimenting with exercise and stuff so I have something to say at an appt. (I don't want to drive over 2 hours to sit there and say "uhhhh, well, ummm". lol

Have a wonderful holiday


Sharon

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I am so glad to hear you are doing well! I, too, had incredible chills, shakes and teeth chattering and at times, still do at the end of the day. There is no way to get me warm enough! When I read my operating notes, I saw they brought my body temperature down to 24 degrees! Now that explains a lot!

Hang in there and stay warm and be sure to ask Santa for a snuggie this Christmas!

Best!
Annie

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so very glad to hear from you again. Was wondering where you've been. Hope everything continues to go well and thanks for bringing a very positive note to my day.

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So wonderful to hear about your op & recovery Swiss.....!! Glad you are back on-line!!! That was some heavy surgery to undergo.

"I don’t have a fever or infection, it’s just I get very cold. It can take up to ½ an hour to get warm. I wonder if my body is trying to regulate itself or if something is off balance. I did have to have a blood transfusion while at the hospital due to low red cell count."

I went into acute anemia on the cath table...violent shaking cold that continued when pushed into CIC cublicle. Nurses covered me with those yummy heated blankets but it was a long time until the the bone rattling shaking subsided. My teeth were chattering. Had just survived 5 hours of intermittent hypoxia so blood flow the the main body organs and peripherals (arms, legs) had been shunted more off than on by the heart to keep blood close to heart and brain.

When this STILL happens, after 15 years out.....I get my arms under hot flowing water. If I have the energy I get into a steamy shower for 10 minutes or more....it is the only way I have found to force my heart out of 'hypothermic mode' and get steadier blood warming flow going again to my whole body. Ice block feet, achy chest, cold numb arms and hands......it just hits when it hits. Cold weather onset makes it much worse at first. Like you, I spend hours huddled under quilts waiting for blood to start flowing again, low grade fever. Maddening but managable. The hardest part for me is how freezing cold my chest feels for so long. Can't really move around until that warms up.

It is still very soon after your procedure and there is lots that needs to heal so plan on many months of this, as unpleasant as it can be.

Have a fabulous new year!!!!!!
Jaynie

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Hi Jaynie,
It sounds kind of like Raynaud's syndrome- the symptoms you're describing. I am also reminded of my own experience with sudden tachycardic atrial fib. As I was being loaded onto the helicopter, I began shivering and by the time we were in the ER I was Shaking so hard I thought I was having a seizure. The ER nurses told me that it is really common to have the reaction I was having and that it was due to the huge release of adrenaline because of hypoxia during all those nonperfusing beats.
We are truly capable of amazing things under certain circumstances, eh? Sorry to hear that your cold/shiver/hypothermic mode continues on, and I'm glad you've found ways to deal with it.
Do you ever carry those chemical "warmers" for a quick warm up when you're away from home? (They're kind of ghastly re: the chemicals, etc, but may help in a pinch...
Love,
Melissa

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Jaynie & Melissa,
Wow. Very interesting replies. Thank you.
I too found that one of the very few helpful ways to warm up was getting in the shower & standing under warm running water for several minutes. While in the shower warming up I think of how much I don't want to get out & face the cold.

Another thing I do is turn on the stove and place my hands over the warm stove top. I feel like I am defrosting.
Since I am home and watching more TV than usual I have seen a commercial for a fleece type over the body house blanket called "Forever Lazy".... I was almost tempted, but didn't.

Sometimes I feel desperate for effective, alternative ways to keep warm.
It's amazing how our bodies react.
Keep toasty warm & cozy everyone.

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