“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”

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.

  • try checking out this website
    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.

  • susan

    I am 45 y female 3 weeks post surgery and have intense right shoulder pain but no clicking anywhere. Pain jsut started this week


    I had shoulder problems, (both had three surgeries), for impingement. I had quad bypass on 04/23/14 and while I was hospitalized my chest did not click-pop, however after I got home about two weeks or so my chest began to pop ever so often. Now it pops and click like a Bic Click pen, especially when laying down. Reach for a drink pop pop pop! It does this so loudly my wife notices!
    I spoke with my Doctor about my concern and was told, this was normal. However my mom and brother also under went quad bypass did not have clicking or popping, however they under went another surgery to reset the wires that held their breast bone together, then the popping began. They too did not have shoulder pain, my mother did have pain in her jaw occasionally.

  • Michael Brown

    I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve and to repair an aortic aneurysm on 6/17/16. I still have the chest popping every time I take a deep breath or yawn. I also had very severe left shoulder pain with bad muscle spasms a little over two weeks after surgery…right after I came home. Luckily it only lasted a few days and it hasn’t acted up since then.

  • Ant Corke

    I had a Bentall Proceedure three years ago, and from time to time still suffer from terrible shoulder pain. The pain comes on slowly, and spreads up my neck and down my arm. Usually on my right side, but sometimes on my left. The pain reaches a very intence peak before subsiding, over a time span of around five minutes. At its peak, the pain is an intense burning sensation, which I assume must be some kind of cramp.

  • Brenda

    My name is Brenda I am 32. I had OHS to replace my aortic valve on September 16 2016. my left shoulder hurt for about two weeks the pain got so bad I had to go to the ER. They told me they was sending me for emergency surgery. Fluid had built up between the heart wall and the heart sac. I had 800 ml of fluid in there and that was causing all the pain. My advice is get is checked out.

  • Daniel Blazowich

    i had arortic valve replaced 7 months ago i started hearing and feeling clicking and noises in my chest and my stranth level is half what it use to be im going to have a cat scan done. i think my stearum never fused together wonder about a law suit?

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