“Did Your Sternum and Shoulder Click after Heart Surgery?” Asks Dale

I just received a great email from Dale about sternum and shoulder clicking after open heart surgery.

Dale writes, “Hi Adam – I had my surgery on November 2, 2009. The surgeon replaced my bicuspid aortic valve (with a bovine tissue valve), the root aorta, and grafted a large piece of my ascending aorta. I have a question… I have some very occasional clicking in my sternum. However, I also have clicking in my right shoulder. It has become more intense, frequent and uncomfortable. Is this normal? Thank you for both the book and this blog! Dale Pfeiffer”

Diagram Of Chest Incision For Heart Surgery

This email from Dale brought back some distinct memories from my early recovery.

Like Dale, I did experience sternum clicks from time-to-time as my sternum healed. In fact, one night I had Robyn (my wife) listen to my chest – as it clicked – to confirm that I wasn’t going crazy. To ensure the “clicking” was not problematic, I discussed this noise with Dr. Starnes, my surgeon, who calmed my fears with two words, “That’s normal.”

Unlike Dale… I did not experience any clicking or pain in my shoulder. However, after I started cardiac rehab, I did meet several patients, including Ted, that often complained of shoulder pain.

What is very interesting about the timing of Dale’s email, is that two other emails in my inbox – from Brian J. and Craig R. – are also asking about the exact same issue… shoulder pain.

That said, I did some quick research. It appears that shoulder pain, like chest pain, is normal for patients. According to the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, “Some heart valve replacement surgery patients experience pain in their chest and shoulder areas and become alarmed thinking it may be angina. This pain is usually due to muscle and bone aches.”

Still, I am curious to know how many, if any, of our patient readers can relate to Dale’s, Brian’s and Craig’s shoulder pain. So, my questions to you are, “Did you experience sternum clicking? Did you experience shoulder clicking? What about shoulder pain?”

To leave a comment, please click here. In advance, thanks for your help in our discussion of this topic!

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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 HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • http://www.livinganeverendingstory.com/ joely

    try checking out this website
    https://rehabilitateyourheart.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/managing-the-open-heart-surgery-scar/
    my husband is a year out of the same surgery and still has chest popping noises and feels tight
    We started doing the myofacial release about 1 month ago and it has made a big difference. It can make you feel sore afterward but it is something everyone who has open heart should be taught about
    Finding a a physical therapist who does myofacial release is also helpful as they can work on the larger area and get better results.

  • Veronda

    Wanda, thank you so much for your story; while my surgery was different I had a single bypass surgery, this past December 20th, I am 49, and wimp about pain, while I am recovering nicely and have been in cardiac rehab for over a month, I do feel better. However, I just started having a pain on the top of my shoulder, when I take deep breaths, I am scheduled for a visit with my surgeon, who is suppose to release me Bach to work, like yourself, I am a registered nurse also, but I work from home, with an insurance company, where I see clients in the field and strictly do education and preventing re-hospitalization. I just wanted to share, I feel your pain as a nurse.

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