Allergic Reaction To Sternum Wires After Heart Surgery?

Josie just wrote me an interesting email about sternum wires. She asks, “Adam – I’m eight-weeks post-op and, like you, suffering from on-going chest pain. Plus, my skin is sensitive. By chance, have you ever heard of a patient experiencing an allergic reaction to the sternal wires after heart surgery?”

My immediate answer to Josie’s question was a simple no. However, after doing some research there are a few instances in which patients have suffered from allergic reactions to the wires that hold the sternum in place after cardiac surgery.

Dr. Takazawa from Juntendo University in Japan states, “To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of a manganese metal allergy to stainless steel wire. A 51-year-old man suffered from a refractory pruritic erythematous wheal after the insertion of a stainless steel wire. The patch test showed strong reactions to manganese, one of the constituents of stainless steel wire. After the removal of all stainless steel wires, the symptoms were much improved, except for mild pruritus on his face.”

Interesting right?

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

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  • Becca Allison

    I am also 8 weeks post aortic valve surgery, and am experiencing similar pains. My skin is sensitive on my chest for about 3-4 inches on either side of the incision. First thing in the morning, putting my socks on hurts when I squeeze my chest together! Sometimes the incision is twingey, sometimes the sternum gives me a dull ache – and my surgeon says it is all normal! I had thought by now that I’d be further along than I am, but I is just a really big surgery and takes time! It’s more annoying than really painful. It helps to read about what others are going through. Your pains sound very familiar, and I’m guessing they are all normal. Do ask your surgeon, though, and good luck to you!

  • Dawn

    I had bypass in 2004, about 1-2 yrs later developed what they said was granuloma anulare, no one knows cause. I have had metal allergies as far back as I can remember. A few sternal wires had lifted, had 6 out of 7 removed and within a week, amazingly, the granuloma was lessening. It was almost totally gone, then started developing again. Considering requesting last wire removed.

  • Kim Rowe

    Hi Adam, I went through AVR in 2002, and have been having trouble since, getting my INR/PT stable. I have also been through many other problems related to this surgery, one of which is, that I had an allergic reaction to the wires they used in my sternum to wire my ribs back together. Had the surgery in 2002, and have been having trouble with my incision re-opening on occasion, until one morning in 2006. I woke up with blood and pus all over myself and in the bed. The cardiothoracic surgeon was baffled and sent me to a general surgeon, who sent me to a plastic surgeon. He did a wire removal, but I still have trouble with tunneling and have had to have 9 more surgeries to try and contain these infections. I need some advice and nobody seems to want to help. Any suggestions? I would be interested in not having to take anticoagulants anymore, since I am having so much trouble with them.

    Thanks for listening,
    Kim Rowe

  • Peggy

    My husband had heart by-pass heart surgery 2 years ago and still suffers with chest pains sometimes severe. The only response to what’s the cause is that it is \”chest wall pain\” common after open heart surgery – 2 years after??? Can chest wires be removed without reopening of entire incision area? Any other remedies???

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