March 12 2013 my mom had a triple bypass. I know that it takes awhile for it to heal. But she is haveing tingeling in her arm and hand and she is haveing chest pains. she is 74 years old. the dr.'s and nurses are saying that is normal she gets scared sometimes and doesn't know what to really exspect from this type of surgery and what is normal. My husband was 42 when he had open heart surgery and healed real good in about 6 weeks this was in 2011. i know there is a difference in age here but should my mom be having these problems. Is that normal. she also has knots where they took the arteries out of her leg. was concerned about blood clots but again the dr. said no clots. that they would go down. and go away I know it's been almost 6 weeks but she is easly scared by things and worries alot. I tell her if the dr. says she's ok we have to beleave she's ok. I just don't want any infections to come up or any more problems. so is this normal for her to be feeling this way. and does it take longer than 6 weeks for some people to heal. She is experienceing things that my husband did not experience.
Your mom is lucky to have you looking out for her. I think age is important when thinking about the differences between how your husband and mom have recovered after heart surgery. As we age our ability to heal is reduced and so it does take longer for our body to heal. In addition to these physical differences we also have mental changes as we age, including feeling more fragile and even scared after big events like open heart surgery. Depression and anxiety after heart surgery is not uncommon so if these symptoms persist or worsen, I would discuss them with your family doctor.
Returning to your concerns about your mums physical healing…..Chest pain at the site where the surgeon entered the chest (usually in the middle of the sternum or breast-bone) is normal. After completing the bypass surgery, the surgeon closes the chest using a series of surgical wires to bring the breast-bone together. The skin on tope of the bone and muscle is then stitched together. At 6 weeks a lot of healing will have occurred and this healing should continue over the coming weeks with a reduction in pain. This kind of pain is often worse with movement because it is coming from the healing muscle and bones.
When we see patients after cardiac surgery we are always careful to rule out infection by asking about the presence of fevers/sweats or any warmth, redness, and pain at sites of wound healing. We also check the stability of the breastbone to make sure the bones are re-uniting and healing. In addition to the physical exam, a chest x-ray may be helpful for assessing healing of the bones, the position of the surgical wires, and also the appearance of the heart and lungs.
Tingling in the arm is not uncommon after heart surgery. Sometimes there is minor nerve damage when the surgeon enters the chest and this can be experienced as numbness and tingling in the chest and arms. The warning signs to look out for, and which should be reported to your medical team, are increasing numbness, new arm weakness interfering with daily activities (i.e. dressing, showering), or other associated symptoms such as changes in speech, changes in vision and/or new leg weakness/numbness. Patients with the kind of heart disease your mom has also have a higher risk of stroke so symptoms such as these should be taken seriously and reported to your doctor immediately. Any new chest pain that is severe, that worsens over time, and is causing breathlessness, sweating or nausea, requires immediate medical attention via an ambulance.
It is normal to find ‘knots’ in the leg. These are sites of healing at the site where veins were removed from the leg. The leg veins are used to bypass the diseased heart vessels. All surgical sites carry a risk of infection – once again you can help by monitoring for signs of infection including warmth, redness, and pain.
Finally I recommend that you speak to your medical team about a cardiac exercise (or ‘rehabilitation’) program for your mom. Not only will your mom have help with feeling fit again, but will also receive lots of great advice about how to look after her heart with the right diet and medications.
I once read a paper where a Cardiologist had bypass surgery, and it educated him to no end. He had no idea of the depression and discomfort involved. I had my bypass when I was 46 and it's certainly true that everyone heals at different rates. I was the first one on my feet from the days surgeries and was walking quite long distances around the hospital. I can't deny that the pain was terrible. Strong pain killers ensured I felt nauseous most of the time and inhibited my eating. I was on those for three weeks. When I arrived home, I honestly felt like my recovery had stopped. Month after month the pains didn't stop and it actually took exactly one year before I felt back to normal. I remember I was asleep one night, on my back as usual, but I must have turned over. A loud cracking sound woke both my Wife and I and I was petrified thinking I'd separated my sternum or something. I still have no idea what it was, but it didn't cause any pain. It took a year for the sensations in my chest to settle down too, which is probably due to the nerves being cut. One minute the skin on my chest was stinging, then cold, then hot, then itchy. It was like my brain was highly confused at the signals. I also had a numb spot at the top of the scar for 2 years, and that has become normal again. I had a big ordeal with recovery and yet I spoke with other patients who seemed to recover within 2 months.
I did attend cardiac rehab, which had me stretching my chest and doing breathing exercises but none of this helped me. In fact, it seemed to make me feel tighter in the chest and worse. After a year I felt ready to give up and decided to try something different. I moved onto the couch, sleeping there every night. It was a small 2 seater which meant a lot of moving to get comfy. I remember waking up several times in the night to roll over onto my other side but I was getting much longer sleep sessions than I was in a large bed. After just 2 weeks, I felt great and all the pain had gone. I think all the moving around and being half asleep which reduced the pain, dramatically accelerated my recovery.
Depression is a difficult thing to handle, because it comes with the fear. I found that the more I learned, the easier it became. It was the not knowing which caused the fear and it goes with the old saying "fear of the unknown". I soon came to realise that heart disease is very common, and I was one of the lucky ones knowing my condition and having it controlled. I felt sympathy for the millions of people who are living with the disease but don't know it. They are the time bombs ready to explode. As time progresses, you realise you are not going to suddenly drop dead. My first stent was in 2007 and a triple bypass and 9 more stents later, I feel pretty good. I was having stents every year and then realised it was due to stress. I have not received a stent since 2009 since lowering my stress. I naturally have very high cholesterol due to hypercholesterolemia, but taking statins and getting my levels way below national average was making no difference. After lowering my stress, I stopped the statins too, but I wouldn't recommend this, I was trying to prove a point. My cholesterol total is 375 and my stents are still clear after 5 years. Again I stress don't stop the statins if your mother is on them because they have another benefit of lowering inflammation in the vessels, particularly important after a bypass.
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