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Chronic Chest Pain after Mitral Valve Replacement

My mother had her mitral valve replaced on Oct 5, 2007 with a mechanical valve (she had rheumatic fever as a child).  She underwent a valvioplasty in 1995 which was very successful but over time we knew she'd have to get her valve replaced.  The open heart surgery went well with no complications and she was sent home with Tylenol 2 for pain five days later.  My mother is 58 years old and also has a heart arrythmia - all related to her valve problem.  When the surgeon closed her chest, he put in 5 retention sutures between her breasts.  The incision is clean and healing well.  My mother is very large chested (a full double D).  Since the surgery, she has had significant pain on the right side of her chest radiating under her arm.  Sometimes the pain also goes across the left side but not as bad as the right.  It starts in the morning and as the day goes on, gets worse.  To sleep at night she has to have a pillow under her arms to keep them elevated to the same height as her chest.  The pain starts on the top of her breast and goes across and under her arm.  Sometimes she will get short stabbing pains in her shoulders.  Her GPs response was "what do you expect after open heart surgery?" but he finally did send her for 12 x-rays of her chest which showed nothing unusual.  My mother doesn't see her surgeon until mid-January (we are Canadian and it takes awhile to get in for a post-op checkup - she has not seen her surgeon or cardiologist since the surgery, only her GP).  My mother is a tough cookie, she can handle a lot of pain and never complains until now.  This pain is taking over her life and she is becoming depressed because she feels noone believes her and it's all in her head.  As I watch my mother night after night clutching her little red heart pillow to her chest and rocking with the pain with tears in her eyes, I know this pain is real.

Has anyone else experienced this?  Is this normal?  Will it get better?
13 Responses
361979 tn?1199307450
Can you call her surgeon and try and get her in sooner? Something could be going wrong even though your GP doesn't see it on the exrays, is she short of breath, color look good, any fever?  I ask about the shortness of breath for a reason, ( could have fluid build up in her chest cavity ).  This is VERY VERY painful and many GP's this, the ER's miss mine.
Avatar universal
I'm a male, and I had aortic valve replacement on 12/14/07.  Starting today, 2 weeks after surgery, about 50% of the time for every movement I make, I get a stabbing pain
that starts half way between my incision and right pec nipple and goes almost over to
my right arm pit.  This sounds similar to your mother's described sharp pain.  

I found your 12/24/07 posting when I did a topic search and found your posting.
My next doctors visit is 3 days away.  My post surgery documentation said to look
for bleeding, infection and coughing phlem as bad signs to seek immediate
attention.  My hunch (I'm not a doctor but a patient) is that one of the dis-solvable
stitches let go and my chest muscles now have to work harder at keeping chest
together.   That particular muscle / tendon is now being strained.

Take care, you aren't alone in your pains...

Avatar universal
I had Mitral Valve Repair on Nov. 2nd and felt pain in my shoulders, back and chest for 6 weeks. Also felt pain like someone was sticking needles into my chest. The pain also worsened as the day went on, and by evening, I was applying heat constantly. My doctor said that when you are opened, all of your muscles and tendons are stretched or ripped and the healing process can take some time. Most of my pain is gone, but one thing I did learn was to take my pain medication before it got too bad. I still feel some discomfort around my sternum after 9+ weeks. Your mother shouldn't feel like this is "in her head"....it's real. Another visit to the doctor may be what she needs. It seems like she should have seen her surgeon soon after surgery with a follow up with her cardiologist.
Avatar universal
Hi today is 3 weeks for me since mirtal valve repair. Most of my pain is in the back area.
How long did you take your pain medication for? My pain medication is out and Aleve or tylenol doesn't seem to help. My have been staying with my parents and my mother seems to think I just have to tough it out. Is it normal to call my doctor to ask for  something stronger? And did you do any cardiac rehab to help you get back in shape?
I'm going to try and go back to work after six weeks, I'm really worried though because I work 55 hours a week on my feet(resturant business) I'm 39 and have always been able to handle the stress and activity now I'm wondering how long it will take for my body to get back to normal. Any advice would be apprciated.

Avatar universal
I am on day 4 from leaving the hospital and expiriencing the exact same pain youve decribed on your blog. I am 21 years old. Unfortunately, there were some complications that were related to my surgery, I bleed internally and lost 2 liters of blood that same exact day I went in for surgery. 5 days after my surgery I started expiriencing the exact same problem, and its been day 5 since I left the hospital and the pain has not gone away. I am afraid somehow that they may have messed up again, but I too have to use a pillow to support under my right arm because of stabbing chest pain radiating across my chest and under my shoulders. At night when I try to breathe it gets worse, the harder I breathe, the worse the pain gets. I hope your mothers pain went away. Have you found a diagnosis for this pain yet?
Avatar universal
I had a mechanical Mitral valve in 2001, and my aortic was similarly replaced this summer.  From my own experiences I found many more long-lasting symptoms from the Mitral valve, but I surmise it may be purely down to it having been the first.
Certainly I now know most of the odd feelings, pain, numbness etc was due to the nerves having been damaged.  A sternotomy is such a major incursion into your body that many nerves are involved in the surgery.  It took years for either the feeling to return or for the pain to disappear, but it does go.  Its not easy, but be patient, your body will sort it. Melissa
Avatar universal
Hi.....my mom also feels the same kind of pains u feel.....she also complains abt her heart rotating.....and feels very week....will she get normal ?...how much tym wud it take..!...how abt ur pains....are u absolutely fine now..?
Avatar universal
I had surgery 6-1/2 months ago.  I had tingling/burning nerve pain in my upper arm.
That finally stopped.  It subsided little by little as months went on.

I had chest pain on left side of my chest, nothing ever on the right.
That too has gotten much better but a 6 inch in diamater area still is very bad.

I am experiencing a lot of problems with my shoulder now and they say it is tendinopathy,
problem with tendons.  

When I breath with any exertion, I get horrible pressure build up in my hest.
And that upper left side of my chest.  

Do not know what is going on, I am optimistic that it is just going to take months for the
body to readjust.  Anyone having the same problem?

As for you thinking you are imagining or are alone with these pains, you definitely are not.
Avatar universal
I'm 2 years since my mitral valve replacement (mechanical) and aortic valve repair surgery. and up to now, i still get occasional stabbing pain on the left part of my chest. my cardio told me it's all normal, but i still hope that it will completely go away. its been 2 years but i can't say that i've completely recovered from this surgery. still having palpitation and other weird sensation in my chest. I'm already considering going to a psychiatrist as this may just be in my head.
976897 tn?1379171202
If you don't get satisfactory answers from your Doctor, then seek a second opinion. However, it can take a long time for recovery, my chest took 12 months to heal. I have read that some people get odd sensations after many years, but if pain is involved then something must be wrong. Perhaps a simple x-ray first to establish if the wires used to connect the sternum have not broken?
Avatar universal
I've had pretty harsh pain from center of chest  outwards towards under arms for 8 months after surgery. I have sternum separation. I think a lot of my pain is just from nerves and muscle just healing slowly. I still have to press my hands sideways to cover whole upper chest when coughing. Sometimes I have weird shooting sharp pains in tiny areas. I guess it's just part of a slow healing like I stated earlier.But thank goodness I don't have to wait around to see a Dr if I wanted to.
Avatar universal
I've had pretty harsh pain from center of chest  outwards towards under arms for 8 months after surgery. I have sternum separation. I think a lot of my pain is just from nerves and muscle just healing slowly. I still have to press my hands sideways to cover whole upper chest when coughing. Sometimes I have weird shooting sharp pains in tiny areas. I guess it's just part of a slow healing like I stated earlier.But thank goodness I don't have to wait around to see a Dr if I wanted to.
Avatar universal
And Im still having these pains after 8 months.In my other response I made it sound like they only lasted eight months. I didn't mean to because at eight months, these pains are still going strong.
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