Pin It
Home > Adam's Blog > “Deep Breathing...

“Deep Breathing Pain After Open Heart Surgery?” Asks Bruce

Posted by Adam Pick on January 16th, 2009

Bruce just sent me an interesting question about chest pain related to deep breathing after heart valve surgery.

His email reads, “Hi Adam, I’m ten weeks into recovery and getting a little nervous – hopefully, for no reason. My surgeon tells me my mitral valve surgery went perfect and that my mitral prolapse is fixed.  But, I’m having a lot of chest pain. Specifically, it hurts to take deep breaths. As an active 62-year old, I notice it most during walks as my heart rate increases and I start to breathe heavier. Any thoughts? Thanks, Bruce”

Bruce’s question brings back a distinct memory from my early recovery. In fact, deep breathing pain was one of my biggest complaints during cardiac rehab classes. I would be peddaling away on the exercise bike when a sharp, cramp-like pain would flare-up across my sternum and rib cage.

I’d say to Debbie, my cardiac rehab nurse, “Is something wrong with my sternum? I’m feeling a lot of pain when I take deep breaths during exercise?” Debbie reassured me that everything was fine and that it might take some more time for the inside of my upper body to heal and adjust given the trauma of open heart surgery.

Me – Riding The Bike At Cardiac Rehab

Ultimately, Debbie was 100% right.

So you know, I’m just getting back from a 30-minute swim… It been three years now since my surgery. Guess what? No chest pain during exercise! :)

That said, I would suggest to Bruce that breathing pain after surgery can be common among patients. However, should the pain persist or remain uncomfortable, please visit your surgeon to confirm there are no other issues with your recovery from open heart surgery.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick A dad, a husband and a patient, Adam Pick founded this website in 2006 to educate you about heart valve surgery from diagnosis to recovery.
You can get the latest updates about heart valve surgery from Adam at his Facebook, and Twitter pages. Click here to email him.


Jon Herbst says on January 16th, 2009 at 3:25 pm


I am 44 and had an aortic valve replacement (bovine) October 2007, and experienced the same chest pains during my rehab. I was told that it was common by the rehab folks, but when it happens to you, I know the anxiety created. I particularly noticed it when I had clothing brushing against the chest. This seemed to fade out entirely by 6 months post surgery. Rehab was a great thing to push things along, and they got me back to running for an hour and bench pressing for chest strength. Good luck on the recovery!


Jon Herbst says on January 16th, 2009 at 3:26 pm


I am 44 and had an aortic valve replacement (bovine) October 2007, and experienced the same chest pains during my rehab. I was told that it was common by the rehab folks, but when it happens to you, I know the anxiety created. I particularly noticed it when I had clothing brushing against the chest. This seemed to fade out entirely by 6 months post surgery. Rehab was a great thing to push things along, and they got me back to running for an hour and bench pressing for chest strength. Good luck on the recovery!


Angeline says on January 16th, 2009 at 8:27 pm

I was wondering my mom had her surgery on Nov 26/08 and now is home after a month in hospital. She was telling me that sometimes she gets this pain deep breathing pain. She has her spray Nitre with her.

What should she do? I told her if it is extreme pain and doesn’t go away take the spray once under the tongue. It should go away.

Is the pain because they do to much exercise or not enough?

She is 76 and her knees are shot so what kind of exercise should she do that wouldn’t be to hard on her the nearest place is 45 minutes away and it is to cold for her she has bad arthrices.


Mary Campbell says on January 16th, 2009 at 9:16 pm


I am 55 and just had an asending aortic valve and aneursym repair on Dec 2nd. I too have experienced some chest pain when I take deep breaths. I will be starting my rehab this coming Monday and this will definitely help me to understand if I do have more pain. I was told to say something if the pain got severe from a particular exercise and I should stop it. I also have pain when my clothes or zippers brush against my chest. Thanks Jon for letting me know that you also had the same experience.

Mary Campbell


ross miles says on January 17th, 2009 at 11:56 am

I’m 56 and 3 1/2 months post aoritic valve replacement (and double bypass) – have similar aches as I workout (stairmaster). Mine are localised to the left side and felt like something jabbing a rib. They have gradually gotten fewer and smaller over time.

Thanks for sharing because sometimes the recovery pain (from the surgery) can seem similar to angina and it is easy to worry that you still have your heart disease. Did a stress test with the heart doc and he confirmed no ischemia.

Good luck again on your recovery!


Dave Petro says on January 18th, 2009 at 7:42 am


I had my aorta valve replaced with a bovine valve and the mirtal valve repaired and two blood clots removed on October 20, 2008.
Before I had my surgery I downloaded and read your book. It was very helpful and gave me a ton of insight to what the procedures was going to be like and what to expect. Needless to say that the surgery was sucessful and I feel and act like a much younger man ( My age is 61). The operation was done at the Hartford Hospital and the surgeon’s name is Dr. David Underhill. The cardiac team and the hopital staff were angels sent to all of us who had the need to heal. And your book was the best investment of all I still pick it up and open to certain sections and still gain insight. I love this blog and come here daily. Thank You


Jennifer From Charlotte says on January 20th, 2009 at 6:51 am

Hi, I’m a 38 year old with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. I had my mitral valve replaced 5 years ago. But I had some piercing pain after the sugery and recovery. The more exercise the more pain. Eventually I had a X-Ray and a CT Scan. This comfirmed that my sternum is not fully clossed and leans forward on the right side. This pain can be very uncharacteristic. I just try to walk tall and yoga has seemed to ease the pain. Thank you, jennifer


Bob Lowther says on January 20th, 2009 at 8:16 pm

I am 62 yrs of age and had an aortic valve replacement in Nov 08. I am scheduled to return to work the last of Jan 09. I am experiencing shortness of breath, am attending cardio rehab 3 times a week and seem to be recovering nicely according to the cardiologist. Can’t seem to get any answers regarding this shortness of breath. Any comments?


Nancy says on January 24th, 2009 at 12:26 am

Hi I am Nancy and had aortic valve replacement along with aorta graft on Nov. 12. I don’t have the piercing pain but I do have loud heart thumping against the top of my sternum. I also sometimes feel like I am being choked. Not sure if this is part of the sternum healing normally or what. Anyone else have this symptom?? I am approx 10 weeks post surgery and am feeling good otherwise.


Dale says on April 8th, 2009 at 10:17 am

I’m now ten weeks post-operation for an aortic dissection and valve repair.
I generally seem to be doing okay, but I’ve been concerned with a persistent pain in the very area that was operated on (ascending aorta). I’ve been to the doctor twice to explain my concern and perhaps get a little peace of mind. On both occasions, the doc smiled and simply said that, with the trauma of open-heart surgery, it’s not surprising to have lingering pain. I’m trying not to be a “nervous Nellie”, but the pain isn’t lessening, sometimes spreads to the shoulder and neck, and doesn’t feel like a bone or cartilage type of pain. I also experience something similar to a previous post, the feeling of something in my esophagus, almost like an unresolved burp. It is somewhat comforting to see that others are experiencing similar symptoms, but I do wish I could feel more certain that all is healing as it should.


Mark says on May 5th, 2009 at 10:58 am

Misery enjoys company. I’m a 63 year old male and it’s just 3 weeks since I had my aortic valve replaced w/ a cow membrane and a single bypass using a mammory artery. Had some chest dis-comfort all along but now I’am starting to get the deep breath pain that runs from the lower left rib cage across the heart and stops at the sternum. It at least gives me some peace of mind to read here that this seems to be a common complaint. It does give one anxiety because you think somethings going wrong. I start rehab in about another week but I have been using our treadmill and recumbant bicycle in the basement. This morning I did 20 min. on the treadmill at 2.0 mph with very little panting. I would think if there was a malfunction of the heart I would feel something else happening. So it makes sense that the deep breathing pain is probably associated with the internal trauma/inflamation around the heart that must heal slowly. Hang in there and stay calm you have to take comfort in the fact that you are “all fixed” and going through a healing period longer than most any other ailments you may have had in your life……Mark


charles baucom says on May 30th, 2009 at 10:37 am

Hello all,
I am a 42 year old male who is 6 weeks out of aortic valve and aortic graph surgery. My pain has gotten to an acceptable level and have been back to work since 3 weeks after surgery. My chief complaint still remains this THUMPING against the inside of my sternum, especially when I take a deep breath. My doctor says that the farther away I get from him the better it will get. Easy for him to say (althought he is a brilliant surgeon) he has never personally had his chest cracked open. For anybody else, and it seems like alot of you have had this symptom….HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO LAST?????? It is driving me crazy!!!!!!!


linda from TX says on June 17th, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I am 62, diabetic, had a 5 bypass and mirtal valve repair surgery in Nov, 08. I really don’t have pain, but still experienced shortness of breath and uncomfortable feeling in the right side of my chest,around lung? I had fluid around lungs while recovering in hospital and it had to be drawn twice. I was in the hospital for 3 weeks after surgery. I can take darvacet and it helps. Is this normal? When I informed my doctor he just said trauma from the surgery, but 7 months now?


Chuck Zimmerman says on June 20th, 2009 at 11:40 am

I am recovering from a double bypass and anneurysm repair six weeks ago. I am now experiencing a stabbing pain on the right side of my lower back just under the ribcage. It is bad enough to keep me awake at night and it is scary thinking it might be coming from the surgery. I can live with the pain if I know that this is common and nothing to worry about. I am going to PT three times a week and the pain is worse after that. This forum is great….as you said…misery loves company.


Allen Jenkins says on June 23rd, 2009 at 5:21 pm

I am recovering from a triple bypass that happened March 18th. I was on a respirator for 10 days after the surgery and knew nothing. When the respirator was removed, it broke and damaged my swallow. A feeding tube was placed into my stomach for the next 5 weeks for me to feed myself with as I recouperated at home.

During this time, my stamina, breathing and general health was growing stronger everyday. I felt almost normal again. I went in to have the feeding tube removed 4 weeks ago. Since that last surgery, my breathing has gone extremely bad, my swallow was messed up again and I have a hard time getting air.

Where I live, the pulmonary doctor says it is upper respiratory. The ear, nose, throat doctor says it is pulmonary. I am at my wits end. I don’t have insurance so I can only afford the health care they give me. Also, if I overexert myself or get my heart rate up, I do have a much harder time breathing. Any suggestions before I kick the bucket? Also, my oxygen level is usually around 98.


mARYANN says on June 25th, 2009 at 8:24 pm

I also just made 10 weeks post surgery, I had mitral valve replaced and aortic valve replaced and the triscupid repaired. The pain in my upper stomach between my ribs, is unbearable. I went to the Dr. and he said it is normal and will get better. Your article was great and gave me a sigh of relief, as only being 50 yrs old I am still scared of everything I been through and what is to come.


Kris says on July 22nd, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Im a 37 year old male who underwent aortic valve replacement and aortic graft to repair an aortic root aneurysm in december 08. My recovery was fairly easy other than being able to feel my heart beating. It has eased up alot but i still feel it. Just as Charles Baucom described in one of the earlier posts its as if my heart is beating against my sternum. Especially when i take a deep breath. I believe i described it wrong to my surgeon as i explained it as my heart felt like it was pounding. Others i have talked to who have had open heart surgery have told me it will eventually go away. Its been 7 months now and i still have it but not near as bad when i came home.


Gillian says on August 14th, 2009 at 5:45 am


I am 58 years old and had mitral valve repair done at the beginning of June 09. Everything went well but like Nancy (blog 24th January 09) I also have “loud heart thumping against the top of my sternum. I also sometimes feel like I am being choked” as she aptly describes it. My breathing is loads better than when I came out of hospital but I’m worried.


Patti says on October 14th, 2009 at 5:59 am

Hi My name is Patti I had open heart surgery May 08 to bypass 6 blockages I’m 44 and I have a lot of trouble with my stomach…it feels like so much pressure in there I can actually push between my ribs and feel how sore it is….did this happen to you? and I still have tightness in my chest area on the left side like when I get cold etc?


Asad says on March 22nd, 2010 at 5:36 am

my dad had is valve replacement last month. since he came back from hospital he was complaining about shortness of breath and also he couldnt sleep lying down. he was comfortable sleeping sitting up. Recently he went for a check up and they kept him in. Saying that his lungs have water in it and also there is water near his heart so they operated to take water out. they said they operation went fine but on saturday night he went into critical condition and they had to put him on vent. Now they are saying that he is getting better but they will have to monitor him for two weeks. can anyone please share some thoughts.


leann says on March 23rd, 2010 at 12:26 am

i am 35 i had my surgery 1yr arotic dissection and valve replacement . i still have pain in back just as i did before the surgery until it scares me somtime, i have days that i still experience the pain when i take deep breaths as well, i still get very tired when i excercise but i have gotten up to walking a mile a day at least 3 times a week but i tell you it is very hard. i am very hopeful this will all pass soon .

To Asad i experience pretty much the same as your father and once they removed the fluid from my lungs i could breathe better but the lying flat to me a long time, about 3months before i could attempt to remove at least one pillow but eventually i made it down to one from 4 ,it just takes time everybodies body is different.


Firasth Ali says on June 5th, 2010 at 1:15 am

As Salam…

Sir iam 26 years old and iam an Open heart surgery patient..And Operation was done at the age of 3 years..and i don’t even remember any thing abt it. and i never got any problem up to now..but from past few days iam getting a pain in my heart when i try to take a long breath or when i cough..can u please suggest me how can i prevent this..


Peter says on October 20th, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I’m a male, 64 years old. I had a mitral valve repair in early August 2010 (some 3 months ago). I have pain after a night’s sleep – at a level that is more an irritant than one requiring resolution. As soon as I get up, pull my shoulders back and fully inflate my lungs the pain moves to a surface soreness (rather than a sharp, deeper pain). My cardiologist indicates open heart surgery is often followed by these kind of chest pains. I believe my problem is other than a simple issue of recovery. In looking for an answer I came across this site plus another wherein a patient describes my situation almost perfectly. In the hope it may help others I have pasted their blog (as follows).
‘I had valve replacement surgery in Nov., 2007 at age 54. I had worse back pain than chest pain right after surgery, and was finally told that was quite common due to the torque on the spine and ribs when the sternum is cut and forced open for the hours the surgery takes to complete. In addition, I had 5 cracked ribs, which is also common due to the torque and pressure. I still have back and chest pains, and was told by several doctors that it is not that uncommon to have to have the wires removed due to ongoing irritation. There is a constant sense of soreness, rubbing and irritation right under the incision site, with a sense of deep soreness all across my chest area. When I bend over, it feels like muscles or tissues are pulling away from the sternum. I have been contemplating going forward with removal of the wires. I kept hoping the condition would eventually improve. I’m usually a very fast healer, so this was a real surprise for me; one for which the cardiologists don’t seem to be preparing their patients’

The symptoms matching mine are ‘constant sense of soreness, rubbing and irritation right under the incision site, …. When I bend over, it feels like muscles or tissues are pulling away from the sternum.’
I will be following up with my cardiologist/surgeon.
To everyone out there, best wishes for a quick recovery and resolution to your pain.


Jill says on November 5th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

My husband who is 33 years old, just had emergency open heart surgery 3 weeks ago today to repair a dissecting thoracic aortic anerysm. He did not need a valve replaced.
Last week he had to go back to the hospital because he had severe pains in his chest again….they found a pulmonary embolism which he is being treated for. Right now he is at a rehabilitation hospital. He can’t walk, but can move his legs. He can’t hold anything but can move his hands and fingers. He also suffers from Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. I am 27 years old and I am very scared that I am going to loose my husband. I have never even heard of anything like this happening! Could someone who has been through this before please help?


Will Williams says on November 7th, 2010 at 10:04 pm


first Adam thanks for putting together a forum for people like ourselves to post and share our experiences!! I am 40 and have my aortic valve replaced with a St Jude Titanium valve in August 2010. I have had a pretty good recovery thus far, however I am starting to experience so Pain at the top of my Sternum. I am approaching week 10 of my recovery and started Cardiac rehab 2 weeks ago. The pain is at the top of my sternum and is pretty bad when I cough or sneeze even when I clear my throat. I have read some posts on other sites which talked about people going back to their surgeon and having the wires removed. Honestly, that scares the hell out of me and I hope that someone can point me in the right direction. I have called my Cardiologist(not my surgeon) and he stated “I did your Cardio Cath and you have no blockages and are not a candidate for a heart attack” Well I don’t know about you guys but that really made me mad and I am looking into finding a new doctor. The pain is in my bones, not underneath.


Adam says on March 16th, 2011 at 9:19 am

Hey everybody. I’m 26 and just went through a surprise type a aortic dissection and replacement. I had though myself too be very healthy being 5.7 and 135 pounds. I experienced chest pains for about 10 yrs and always thought it to be heartburn considering it would go away by morning. This time it didn’t and lasted 3 days. On the 3rd day I went to theer and surprise, open heart surgery to save my life. I’m just finishing the 2nd week of being at home and seem to be doing ok except for minor pains here an there. I wanted to post to reassure others that this happens to healthy people also and to not be afraid. At time of surgery. I was scared beyond belief for me, family and loved ones. However, 2 weeks later and doing well. I am actually wondering about my driving. Doc said that I could try after 2 weeks but I’m nervous. Any thoughts regarding the situation would be greatly appreciated. Thnx much ans get well soon everybody .. -adam


Brian says on March 23rd, 2011 at 11:50 am


I am a 34 year old male that had an aortic valve replacement (open heart) just over a year ago. I really feel great and recovered quickly. I do frequently experience that inability to take that big, deep, satisfying breath. I try and try, yawn, and it just will not come. I can be active just fine, without feeling winded, but I am missing this big deep breath sometimes (no pains). Anyone else experiencing this? Thanks for the blog Adam, and everyone else sharing their experience.



Ivo says on April 24th, 2011 at 7:43 am

I am 51 year old male and 6 weeks ago I had a triple bypass. My recovery has been very smooth and I felt less pain and stronger with each passing day. That is until a couple of days ago when I felt so well that I did some light house chores, lifted few things and even rode a lawnmower. The next day I started feeling little of discomfort in my chest when inhaling. This pain continues to worsen and hurts more when laying down. It first started on my left side of my chest and now both sides along the upper portion of sternum hurt about 5 on scale 1 to 10 when I inhale. Realizing my stupidity of probably over doing things does not help much. It is still pretty scary experience and I was about to go to the emergency room when I came across your blogg. It helps to read that my pain may not be out of the ordinary so I think that I will pop a pain pill and give it a few more days. Thank you and I will provide an update.


Tessie Buttigieg says on May 17th, 2011 at 9:03 pm

It has been 4 weeks since my second heart operation for a aortic valve replace and this time I am going through alot of pain I cannot even use my fingers for maniging typing the pain isso severe goes straght to my right side I had a ct scan but nothing show wrong now after 3 weeks I am having another one .


Tina-marie says on November 9th, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Hi There
I noticed your blog and would like to say I am 5wks post op for Aortic valve surgery with an ON-X valve. I too have been experiencing a lot of pain but as my wounds opened up because of an infection I was not unduly worried,That was until I saw the surgeon who says that my sternum is unstable and that it is grating and grinding she has given me a coughlok to wear when I do anything physical but this presses on my wounds and makes them bleed.I am finding pain management very difficult and I am suffering from insomnia due to this.
Overall my heart valve is wonderful and I felt the improvement straight away but as for my recovery it is possible I may need further surgery so things have not gone quite to plan.
Does anyone have any tips as its making my life a misery at the moment?
Thanks Tina-marie


Tessie Buttigieg says on November 9th, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Hi Tina Marie It has been 6 mounts since my second valve replacment and I was inalot of pain but now I feel 100% good and I walk every day and my life is going normal. I am 64 years old and feel fit . Hope that you will be too be calm and take one day at a time . wish you the best . Tessie


Susie says on November 19th, 2011 at 9:19 am

Hi, I am 49 yo – 2 1/2 weeks post aortic valve (bovine) and ascending aneurysm repair and one bypass by LIMA. I have to say the surgery pre op teaching does not prepare anyone really for what is on the other side of the surgery doors when you come out. The pain was bad for me and I know that some do better than others. I could not take a deep breath if you paid me post op. My surgeon told me it takes 6 months for the lungs to recover and your Incentive Spirometer is your best friend at helping your lungs heal and your maintaining light activity like walking. I still have pain 2 1/2 wks out and I am finally turning the corner from severe pain to mild/mod. I told my surgeon it’s like trying to breathe though cement plus it hurts on top of that! I am also a nurse at the heart center I had surgery in and I will be honest with my patients now and treat their pain accordingly! I thank you for this blog site and I will keep reading it as you all have helped me too….I’ll post updates as I improve, but this is a longer road than expected!


Mary says on November 23rd, 2011 at 8:01 am

i totally agree that nothing prepares you for the pain involved in breathing and trying to cough after surgery. i had an aortic valve replacement 2 weeks ago and i became very wheezy at the weekend and got a temperature so had to start antibiotics. thought it would be easier by now. it is a long road . i am a nurse too and have a whole different insight to pain management now !!


tessie says on November 23rd, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Hi please don’t give up I had my aortic valve replace last April and I was in so much pain but today I am 64 and I work so hard in the garden mow the lone and go for fast 40 mins walks and feel great mind you 5 years ago I had the mytrto valve replace too keep it up and don’t give up, you all be amazed how energetic you will come again .


Nancy Friedman says on November 24th, 2011 at 12:23 am

Looking forward to not being tired all the time. Going in for avr. Feb9-2012. Your notes are all good Am f – Mid 60/s. in pretty good -very good shape so am told it should be ok. Pain is not my friend. Hmmm. Hope the meds help. Thx for all your comments. Njf.


Rob R says on November 25th, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Hi, definitely hang in there, pain with deep breathing, coughing, sneezing, and laughing (!) have all faded for me and are continuing to dissipate. I had AVR in June and the pain from expanding my chest with deep breaths or jerking from coughing/sneezing/laughing has been hard. I think exercising at cardiac rehab, doing gentle stretches, laying on my back when I’ve been able to–have all helped. Probably mostly from just taking enough time for sternum and connections to ribs to heal after surgery. I’ve been doing gentle exercises/stretching to help promote blood flow to chest area. Pain meds have definitely helped when needed. Am looking forward to getting more strength and flexibility back…just gotta be patient and let doctor know about any difficulties.


Tessie says on November 25th, 2011 at 7:06 pm

To every one who is having an opp. or had one don’t forget when you doing the caughing and deep breathing hold a forded towel to your chest it helps allot.


Tina-marie says on November 29th, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Hi everyone
I am trying a new approach now and your forum may be interested in at nights I take a hot water bottle to bed wrapped in a towel. I place this on my sternum in bed and this helps in two ways.
Firstly it helps soothe the pain and secondly it holds the sternum flat.
I hope this tip helps other people.
Take care
post AVR 8wks with unstable sternum


Susie says on November 30th, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Yes Tina that’s a great idea. I used the heating pad on my back and upper chest post op because of bad spasms. My daughter went to rub my back and said it felt like a board! She could barely find my scapula. And I’m not a heavy person. So tight muscles last a while as well and cause even more pain!


Tina-marie says on November 30th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Hi Susie
Nobody prepares you for this open heart surgery with regards to your back. I was only informed after the surgery with a clam as an example to my spine being a hinge…lol
I did a lot of research even seeing a film of the operation online but none of that prepared me for the pain..ha ha
I am 8wks post surgery and apart from a few complications here and there I am on the mend and I hope you are too.
Take care of yourself


Vicki Pierson says on November 30th, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Hi, I’m 6 months post mitral valve repair and had some sternal pain with breathing, movement, or just my clothes rubbing on the incision. It felt like a had a ball of barbed wire hanging around my neck that bit into me with every move. I was scared it was my broken sternum so I was very conservative about moving too much. By 6 weeks post-op it hadn’t gotten any better and since most broken bones heal in that amount of time, I started thinking about other causes. I think 90% of my pain was scar tissue under my inscision pulling at my skin. I started gently massaging the inscision when it was warmed up from a shower, and the pain improved as the tissue broke free. This is obviously not everyone’s problem on this topic but it’s something to consider. Also I would like to put in a good word for physical therapy (different from cardiac rehab). There is so much trauma to muscle and bone from the sternotomy, and cardiac surgeons are focused on the heart so it’s no wonder we get little help from them. PTs are focused on bone and muscle and how they work together and can be a tremendous help if you have ruled out any heart or lung problem.


frank says on December 6th, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Hi everyone. My name is frank. I had my aortic valve replaced(St. Jude mech) and my ascending aorta repaired(aneurysm). It will be 2 years on April 28. That is also when I will be 71. I have had no chest or breathing problems. The thumping when taking deep breaths or laying on my side is loud but I have gotten used to it. I take warfarin and I have no problem with the monthly bloodwork. I can do pretty much the same things that I did before the surgery. The only problem is pain in both shoulders. The pain seems to be in the muscles. The pain is worse when I get up in the morning but lessens with activity. I do not know if it related to the surgery, my meds, or something else. My Doctor is monitoring the pain and has suggested various tests. I hope my experiences will give others some insight. Good luck.


Susie says on December 13th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Vicki I totally agree with your idea of Physical Therapy. I wish there was a way to get the surgeons to understand that healing would be much easier if our muscles weren’t at a constant state of spasm! Even light range of motion exercises would help. I am going to start Tai Chi to help with range of motion and gentle movement. I just think it would feel good! I am 6 weeks post op and when I over do it my chest hurts and the muscles all bind up again. Frustrating, but I am improving!


Peter Michael says on February 19th, 2012 at 2:49 am

Thank you Vicki (Pierson) for the advice on gently massaging the incision. The massage appears to loosen the ‘adhesions’ that the tissue forms early on post-op. It is 6 weeks now and the sensitivity of the skin to clothing is gradually fading but returns with a vengeance at times. And Susie, I believe that one should start on a light range of motion to gradually expand the chest. (I think one can intuitively know when to avoid overdoing it). Thank you for sharing your thoughts: there is so little written medical information on this subject that the feedback received from various patients becomes invaluable.


Tina-marie says on February 21st, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Hello all
I have posted here before and as I am four and a half months post op AVR with ON-X valve.
I was in a great deal of pain initially but now I hardly know that I had anything done and the pain has all but gone.
Dont give up and just take it easy when it hurts as there was once a time when I thought I would never feel normal again.
I have been using silicone scar sheets for my awful scars and even they are looking good.
Take care of yourself and if I can be any help let me know.


C Somers says on February 23rd, 2012 at 7:03 am

I am 5 weeks after aortic valve replacement. I have been doing better each day, following doctors’orders of walking, resting, eating well,etc. But I have an unusual sharp pain at my left waist when I take a deep breath, sneeze or yawn. Can this be related to surgery, as well?


Susie says on February 29th, 2012 at 7:39 am

Hi again. I have written to you all a few times as I have healed from an aortic valve one bypass and an ascending aneurysm repair. This was November 2011. Since I’m only 48 I know healing is different due to nerves and muscles being more toned and more sensitive. My shoulders are still sore and the numb spot on the front of my chest is waking up and now that stings! I had no idea it would take so long to return to myself. Physical therapy does help but pushing myself makes it flare again…ouch…but nothing like immediate post op!


Brynn says on December 6th, 2012 at 12:26 am

62 year old wife/mom/grandmother. I am in my 6th week of recover from mitril/aortic heart valve replacement. I don’t understand why one day is so much better than another. Sharp pains that others describe, continue to plague. Surgeon says my lungs are crystal clear, all healing is where it should be, but still have these horrible pains when I take a deep breath. I feel them from my waist to the top of my shoulder. Seems crazy.


Susie says on December 21st, 2012 at 9:30 am

Hi Brynn
I know the pain is frustrating. I am one year post op but I remember those days clearly! I read back over my messages on this site and it all comes back. Remember that when you had your surgery how stretched open you were and all the muscles are coming back now. The twinges and stabs that you feel with breathing are probably the muscles spasming and readjusting to being normal again. I had many muscle spasms that got my attention! I used the heating pad off and on for relief along with my pain medicine. When you are able you may consider physical therapy. It helped me immediately and I feel it is underused with open heart patients. Good luck! You will get stronger soon!


John Wedgworth II says on June 29th, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I am a 45 year old male who is 5 weeks post op. I had a quadruple bypass done. I am having discomfort in the muscles (stomach lower back) and ribs, as well as lots of discomfort when my clothing touches my incision. My incision is basically healed, but starting to feel like I need to put something on it, as it is healing. I am trying not to take any pain meds, as it is “tolerable” without them. Still not sleeping great yet. My left leg where the vein harvest was performed still hurts in the upper inner groin, as well as the inside section of the knee where the incision was. My right leg, upper thigh area feels numb and almost like its “sunburned” I guess. Like it fell asleep. The right leg area is where they did the heart cath. Damaged a nerve maybe?? Just hoping the healing process moves along!


Tina-marie says on July 1st, 2013 at 7:09 am

Hi John
It has been 20 months since my open heart surgery and when I saw your post it reminded me of days gone by …lol
I have the same numbness in my right leg and am now having physiotherapy for it as its a condition called Meralgia Paraesthetica and it is caused by a severed or trapped nerve which runs alongside the femoral vein.
This is quite common after heart surgery .
I quite understand the pain in your ribs and back and I found light upper body exercise helps for this as they cut through a lot of nerves.
I had a cream from my doctoer for my wound which helped with the sensation and tightness as it heals I also found silicone scar strips worked wonders after you are healed
I hope you feel better soon
Thinking of you Tina-marie


Leave a Reply

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the answer to the math equation shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the equation.
Click to hear an audio file of the anti-spam equation

Welcome to Adam Pick's
Heart Valve Surgery Blog

Adam Pick
Patient, Author & Website Founder
Watch Adam's story

Get Adam's Free Email Updates
Sent To Your Inbox First

Over 35,000 Patients
And Caregivers Have
Read This Book

Patient Recommended
Heart Valve Clinics

(Click a logo)

Mount Sinai
University of Michigan
Alta Bates
Northwestern Memorial
Cleveland Clinic
Florida Hospital