Sternotomy scars

I'm about to have an aortic valve replacement. I've found all sorts of information about the more serious medical implications, but very little about how women react to the cosmetic issues of a full sternotomy. How many women cover it up and how many continue to unselfconsciously display it? According to my surgeon, a minimally invasive procedure is not an option.

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I had open heart in March. The surgeon was going to try to go in through my ribs on the side, a new procedure he was perfecting, however, the surgery was to complicated, as well as the fact that I have significant internal scar tissue from my first open heart surgery 30 years ago. So it meant he had to crack my chest. The surgeon did hear my cosmetic, or vanity, concerns and kept the scar as low as he could and stll do the extensive surgery. It is healing well.

I was at dinner last night with several female friends when the topic of my scar came up. I was wearing a scooped neck top that exposed the top of the scar. Several of them commented on how it accented my cleavage. (by the way, I do not have much cleavage, in the first place.). I had been thinking, this past month, how it is actually is the reverse of having breast implants with sorta the same results. Ha!

I had m surgery at Barnes Hospital in St Louis and I am involed in one of their research studies. I have an implant (it looks like a computer thumb drive) buried in my chest which records heart activity and sends the info back to the surgeon in St. Louis. When I have told friends I have an implant, their reply is that most people get two. Everyone is a wanna be comedian! Life goes on.

If anyone actually asks about my scar, I reply that it is actually my "I can do anything reminder."

Take care, life does go on....

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I had a double bypass 10 months ago. I have a scar two inches from my neck all the way down to about 3 inched above my belly button. At first I was so upset and turned off at the sight of myself that I kept myself covered and wore scarves to cover and pretend it didnt happen however I still had to look at the major scar on my left arm that covers my forearm where they harvested an artiery.

I now realize that these scars are my BADGES OF COURAGE. I am lucky to be alive and I show they and never try to cover up. As they are still very fresh I do get alot of stares and questions. I have started to use this as a chance to talk to other women about heart health.

Somedays I do still feel sorry for myself and these scars but as each day passes and the scars fade I realize that it adds character to my life. Oh the only difference in my life style of dressing is that I know wear a full piece bathing suit rather than a bikini....haha

I hope this helps a little? Just remember your life is MORE imprtant than a scar.

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Hi Sol-y-sombra (cool name!),
I had my CABG 4 1/2 years ago, and my scar, which is nearly ten inches long, midsternal, has been evolving. It started out extremely tender, puffy, red and swollen. The red puffiness has SLOWLY gone away, almost. I had the grand misfortune of getting the top end sunburned the first summer, and it seems to have permanently caused inflammation. I use a prescription anti inflammatory cream on it, and that seems to bring down the swelling and redness. I use sunblock on it regularly and wear higher necklines to keep the sun off. I do NOT keep it covered for cosmetic purposes. Most everyone in my community knows of my surgery and accepts me as I am. Plus, I just plain forget about my scar. I've had many other surgeries that don't show when all my clothes are on. I forget about them all, and feel happy that they are all intact and that means I am too.
Best wishes,
love,
Melissa

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I had a triple bypass five years ago and the scar, about 8-9 inches, is very light in color
now and not that noticeable. It still itches at times. The mammary artery was used for
two of the bypasses and my main complaint about the whole thing is that half my left
breast to the middle of my chest is numb. It's all a small price to pay! The other complaint
is that the surgeon did not make a straight cut so my scar curves over my right breast
slightly rather than straight down between my breasts. I guess he had too much coffee
that morning before he operated or needs to have a stronger prescription lens in his glasses!
I think my scar would be even less an issue if it had been straight. I don't know how often
that happens, but probably not. I just got lucky! There are creams you can use also that
will help diminish the scar. Ask your doctor. Good luck and take care!

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It's been a year for me since my surgery, and my scar is barely noticeable. I wear v-necks all of the time winter and summer. Never could stand to have higher neck lines. v-neck is my preference. Shamrock

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GOOD MORNING. I think the scars are minimal in relation to the surgery and giving allbof us a second chance in life. My scar s very good but with the bottom half a bit thicker.thicker. while it is a scar and scars are never welcome, this is livable....literally. :) give it time to heal and don't judge yourself the first year. I promise it will get better. I am two months shy ofvmt two year anniversary aortic valve replacement myself and I wish you the very best.

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I have had a sternotomy scar since I was 17, I am now 49. It has never bothered me, and even at 17, I never thought about trying to cover it up. My first scar looked terrible too, keloided. I had surgery on it a year after that first surgery to cut out the scar, and it healed much nicer that time. I had my second heart surgery 4 years ago, and this scar healed perfectly. It really is hardly noticeable at this point. You may be a little bothered by it at first, but with time, will probably not even worry about it.

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Thanks to everyone. This is all very reassuring. I won't pitch all of my lovely low cut tops and dresses. It's not that my first question was about the scar. I think I won't be self-conscious about it but as I worked through all the medical issues I started wondering, "Why doesn't anyone else talk about this?" I appreciate the advice about not letting it get sunburnt, and also about discussing the cosmetic effects with the surgeon. It's also very nice to know that there's a supportive community of women out there who've been through similar ordeals and come out the other side.

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I guess we don't talk about it because it doesn't seem to bother most of us. I like tel's 1950 comment the best, it's her" I can do anything scar." That comment is so true can't wait to use it. Shamrock

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I love that comment too. And I'll keep it in mind. "I can do anything." Another that I carry with me, given me by a good friend years ago, "Focus on the part of it that you can control."

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Thanks. This is very inspiring. I love the "I can do anything." reminder. I will carry that with me into surgery and beyond. Another that I carry with me, given me by a good friend years ago, "Focus on the part of it that you can control."

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It helps a lot. Thanks.

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I do not know where your surgery is being done but several heart centers have surgeons who are experienced in the minimally invasive procedure where your sternum does not need to be cracked. My surgeon in Houston at Methodist Hospital DeBakey Heart Institute also does bypass procedures this way. I know it is also done at The Texas Heart Institute and I would imagine at most major medical centers, such as Mayo or Cleveland Clinic. Recovery is so much faster and less painful. You would need to be evaluated to see if you are a candidate for this method of replacing your aortic valve.

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Thanks for the warning about sunburn. I'm fair, spend a lot of time outdoors and burn easily, so I'll be especially careful.

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Having had breast reduction surgery in 2000, I know about the numbness and can possibly reassure you about that a little. It took a long time, but either it gradually gets better or I've gotten used to it. It doesn't really bother me anymore.

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Thanks for the input. The surgeon doesn't think this is a good approach for me. I might need to have an ascending aortic graft too. I asked my cardiologist and she said he can really do a better job with the big incsicion. I trust both.

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Thanks Sol y Sombra for the info on your numbness...I'm used to it now, but every now and then
it bothers me...I get nerve responses that are slightly painful and then the itchiness here and there.
Of course neither is totally important, but still noticeable. I'm very sensitive. Also, I saw that
it could be a bit dangerous being numb...I had a sharp object come loose from a bra and it cut me
pretty badly before I knew what was happening. I would also like to throw the idea out that maybe
we don't talk about the scar so much because we don't want to appear vain in the face of something
so serious. Our scars are a constant reminder of not only being "fixed" but of a scary and painful time
as well. What I'm really trying to say is that it's A-OK to feel whatEVER we feel about that badge of courage
that we wear in common...or as one told me, becoming a bonified member of the "zipper club!"

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hi sol-y-sombra, i had my aortic valve replaced with a assending aortic graft also, april of this year, my scar is about 7 ins long, i am glad to be alive and wear my scar with pride, it a badge of courage for me, it does add to my cleavage, i had no stitches my surgeon used glue, the top ot my scar was quite swollen,it has since gone down, still a little bit left to go,some times my scar is quite red, other times it looks like it's fading, some times i cover it up sometimes not, i do use suncream as im quite fair, and my cardiologist recommended a cream to help fade the scar, but its only to be used when you are healed up, (no chanch of an infection) it is called MADERMA GEL, i picked it up at a wal-mart, it cost about 20 dollars canadian, small tube but it lasts a long time... take care, Diane.

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I am happy to hear that you were evaluated for the less invasive procedure. I am also sorry it was not a good option. My sister-in-law had two valves replaced and her scar faded nicely and was relatively low considering. She said the same thing another poster mentioned-it was her badge of courage and meant she was now stronger again.

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I had my first open heart surgery at age 13 so I have had a LONG time to get used to it. I had keloid scarring on the top third of the original scar that was raised and red but gradually dimished over time. Had my second open heart surgery 3 years ago and they cut right next to the first scar which you could actually see the double line at first, but then it healed so well it is thin and light.......thinner than the original which I never quite understood how that happened - but like it! :) The second time around I also got a hump of my upper chest. That shrunk down and went away in a few weeks.

My clothing choices have always been lower neck tops because otherwise I feel like I am being choked (claustrophobic) Sometimes people comment on the scar which does not bother me at all. The comments have always been out of curiosity on their part. Even as a teenager I wore my "proof of living" scar proudly.

Now I also have the addition of a pacemaker scar. That one is a lil squiggly and pink, about 2 and 1/2 inches long while my sternotomy scar is quite long (longer the second time than the first) probably close to 10 inches. Then there are the four drainage tube scars (two each time) near the bottom of the sternotomy.

Best of luck to you,

Jeanne

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