“Can My Sternum Wires Cause Chest Pain Two Years After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Jake

I just received a very interesting question from Jake about chest pain, sternum wires and heart valve surgery.

Jake writes to me, “Dear Adam – It’s been 2 years since my aortic valve replacement operation. While my heart is doing great, I still have a very sensitive incision. There are spots along my sternum that, if I press on, cause a shot of pain. My chest also hurts if I twist in odd ways. Is it possible that the sternum wires are causing this discomfort. If so, can I get them taken out? Is that a big procedure? Thanks! Jake”

Sternum Wireds On Chest Xray
Xray of Sternum Wires After Open Heart Surgery

While I have my own thoughts on this topic, I wanted to provide Jake an expert opinion. That said, I contacted Dr. Lishan Aklog, the Chief of Cardiovascualr Surgery at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, to learn more.

So you know, Dr. Lishan Aklog has performed over 2,000 cardiac procedures of which more than 60% involved heart valve treatment. Dr. Aklog specializes in mitral valve repair with minimally invasive approaches.

Dr. Lishan Aklog
Dr. Lishan Aklog – Heart Valve Surgeon

Here is Dr. Aklog’s direct response to Jake’s questions…

Dear Jake,

Sorry to hear you are having sternal problems following your valve surgery.  The most important thing is to determine whether your sternum has, in fact, properly healed.  Some patients can have areas where the bone did not fully fuse (“non-union”) and this can lead to pain with motion.  Your surgeon can get a sense of this by carefully examining you but usually a CT scan is helpful to determine whether there are any gaps in healing.

If the bone is fully healed then the pain can simply be related to one or more of your wires.  These can be removed.  It does require surgery, usually a brief general anesthetic, but it is not a big procedure and most patients go home the same day or the next.

Rigid Fixation For Heart Surgery Incisions By Biomet
SternaLock For Sternal Closure

If the bone is not fully healed then the sternum can be reconstructed.  This is a bit more involved but not as much as the original surgery.  We use a system of titanium plates and screws called SternaLock to rigidly put the bone back together.  In fact, we use this system routinely at the time of the original surgery and have found it to decrease pain, improve healing and accelerate the patient’s return to normal activity.

I hope that helps!
Dr. Aklog

Thanks to Jake for his question and a special thanks to Dr. Lishan Aklog for sharing his clinical work with our patient and caregiver community!

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.

  • Brad L

    I was blessed to have Lishan Aklog repair my mitral valve 12 years ago, at age 42. I experienced no pain with my sternum after initial soreness. Thank you Dr. Aklog!
    Brad L

  • Ron

    I’m 16 months out from a triple bypass and still having aches and pains in my incision area at least I hope its my incision most of the time I have no pain but at least a couple a time a day mostly in the mornings it’ll hurt sometimes enough to where I have to ask myself do I feel dizzy? do I feel weak? do I need to sit down? do I feel like I’m having a heart attack? is this all in my head? its down right scary but then I get over it the pains gone it just kind of shakes me up. I’ve been cleared to do any activity except shovel snow which I’ve done anyway(foolish) it really wore me out I’ll try and let the boys do it from now on. anyhow its nice to know I’m not alone. I see the Doc in a couple of days and see what he says about all this…Thx everyone for the posts and I wish you all a long and healthy life bye for now.

  • Bonnie Matthews

    What kind of wire is used after aortic valve replacement, and why does a magnet stick to my chest?

  • Karen Leutz

    This question is my question. I form keloids on my scars and had a large one on my sternum scar which has stretched out looking sort of like a butterfly. At the right edge I have had twinge of pain off and on and it feels like a bit of lumpy skin where the pain occures. Up to now mild…but today while stretching across my body with my right haND the twinge of pain there was considerably more severe than in the past. The end of next month marks the end of the third year since Mt aortic valve replacement surgery. I also have a pacemaker that was put in two weeks after my value replacement due to brady-cardia @35 bpm. Even though I nearly died, the Dr’s gave me zero chance…I fooled them all…but now I fear the titanium wires are poking me from the inside and I’m scared. My valve is pig valve and they say it will need replacing after 15 years. If they have to go in there and re brake the sternum to do it…dang the whole of the idea burns my brain just a bit. What do I do? Live with it like I do arthritis etc. Please, any advise? Can this cause damage or is it just a nuicence. This only started recently so I believe the bone is healed properly.

  • Karen Leutz

    Hi Kevin, im Karen, the one just above you. I didn’t have bypass but rather a valve replacement…but I have had your problem in the past and I found a solution that works for me. Sleep in a “recliner”. If you don’t already have one I suggest you get a very well made one like lazy-boy or such. The recliner does several things. It stops you from turning in your side or stomach which doing so will put undue stress on your chest by squeezeing it together too much. It also allows you to sleep on your back at different angles than a bed does and it keeps your shoulders in line and just the right amount of support so sleeping on your back doesn’t splay your chest out fully so your chest is stretched out too much like in a bed. Now I sleep most nights in a bed but with 6 or 8 pillows behind me so I don’t sleep flat AND I never turn on my side or stomach. I hope this suggestion works for you. It does for me…and I do still sleep in my recliner on occasion. I slept in to exclusively for about two years though. Be well…Karen

  • Karen Leutz

    Just a comment. Persons with titanium wires can not have MRI’s I was told by my cardiac doctor.

  • get the money

    Ihad open heart with no wires on have still. pain after 5years

Have A Question? Call Us at (888) 725-4311

HeartValveSurgery.com
P.O. Box 4049
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Phone: (888) 725-4311