“Will I Be Glued Or Stapled After Heart Surgery?” Asks Jill

By Adam Pick on December 16, 2008

I just received a curious email from Jill. She writes, “Hi Adam – After several years of waiting and waiting, I’m finally going in for valve replacement due to severe regurgitation. Quick Question: Will I be glued or stapled after the sternum is wired? I’ve heard it can go either way. Any thoughts?”

Jill’s question just brought back a very interesting memory for me…  I was in the intensive care unit after my aortic valve replacement surgery. The obstructive vent tube had just been removed from my throat. I was woozy (from the anesthesia) but conscious. My eyes sluggishly opened for the first time in six hours. I remember seeing my dad and my wife. Then, I looked down at my chest and thought, “Huh? Is something wrong? I don’t see any stitches on my scar.”

Shortly thereafter, I learned that my surgeon used a special type of glue to seal the incision after my median sternotomy. As you can see below, there are no stitches or staples on my main, 8-inch incision.


Glued Incision After Heart Surgery
My Glued Incision – Shortly After Surgery


However, you should know, this is not always the case. Many surgeons still use staples.

In fact, I just received an email from Emmanuel Ibanez. Emmanuel just had valve surgery in the United Arab Emirates. As shown, Emmanuel’s surgeon chose to use the staple method.


A Stapled Incision


Whether your incision is stapled or glued, I continue to recommend the use of Mederma. Myself and many of my readers have had positive results from this skin care gel.

Finally, you should also know that most patients have additional scars from the smaller chest tubes used during / after surgery. Most of the time, those smaller incisions are stitched.

I hope that helps further explain the different approaches to closing surgical incisions – glue, staples, stitches – for open heart surgery.

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Ted Shearer says on December 16th, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Dear Adam,
This Thursday the 18th will be my two week anniversary of my Mitral Valve repair, done by Dr Vincent Gaudiani at California Pacific med center in San Francisco. The surgery went perfect and my progress rehabing and healing is right on schedule, I feel great. The process of surgery, though new (my first ever) has been very positive, and your book was a great start to learning what to expect.
The only med that they want me on for a month is Metoprolol 25mg,which is a beta blocker. The problem I have with this med is that it brings on a Migraine when I take the whole pill. Since I have cut the pill in half for each use we have stopped the migraines. I really don’t have any pain so I only use the other med Ultram 50mg, which is for pain to sleep at night, but it only lasts for 6 hours or less.
My biggest problem is sleep, trying only to sleep on my back to let the Sternum heal is not easy for me, I like to sleep on my side. Last night I tried but woke in pain when I tried to roll over, and then heard my Sternum creek a little as I rolled to my back.
The question I have is what is the time period they want you to sleep on your back, before you can resume old sleeping habits, of side sleeping, or stomach sleeping?
I appreciate your emails and the information that you make available to us.
Happy holidays,
From the latest healed heart,

Ted Shearer

Cindy Tarver says on December 16th, 2008 at 5:12 pm

I just asked this question about closing after surgery. I’ll be undergoing surgery for MVP repair in NY on Feb. 3rd. They will sew from the inside with dissolvable sutures.

Mary says on December 16th, 2008 at 5:35 pm

My 7-week old incision looks like Adam’s (glued) but my Dad had his stapled about 10 years ago. While I know we all heal a bit differently, I just want to add that his scar is much more noticable than mine so far. My reccomdation is to address this with your surgeon and tell him you are concerned. The other idea is to have the surgery and then, after it heals & if you do not like the result, you can have it seen by a plastic surgeon.
After 3 weeks I could lay on my right side for longer and longer periods of time but still my left shoulder hurts too much (at 7 weeks) for me to lay on it. I was told to give it a few months and then make an appointment with a physical therapist if need be.

lisadarr says on December 17th, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Just had mine done on the 11th, a sternotomy for mitral valve repair. My incision was closed with internal dissolvable sutures. No one from the minute I woke up could believe how good it looked!. I have 2 small holes below from the drains. Will send pics soon. I was released from the hospital in 4 days and doing pretty well.

Carol Russell says on December 17th, 2008 at 5:53 pm

I am 4 mths post surgery for Mitral valve repair (Aug 13th) and I’m just now sleeping on my side. It hurt too much to try and sleep on my side. My incision was glued, like Adams and looks fine. I still have a small issue with the very top. For some reason it still has a scab. It falls off from time to time, but I another forms. I’m thinking its still oozing a little which is forming the scab. I’ve been back to my surgeon twice for it, but after taking antibiotics (twice) it now seems to be getting smaller. I guess that little area just wants to be a brat. All in all I feel pretty good. Still have my days where I’ll forget I’m still healing and try to do something stupid….and it all comes back to me real quick. I had my surgery in Baltimore at Union Memorial (Dr Fiocco) and I must say he is the best!!!! Give it time to heal Ted and it will soon be behind you. Thanks for the emails Adam (and the book)

Ted Shearer says on December 18th, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Thanks Mary and Carol,
The Tramadol at one and a half pills 75mg total seems to be working for now, the last couple of nights I have sleep real well. The migrains remain at bay too.
My sternotomy is healing very well, with internal dissolvable sutures and only a 4 and a quarter inches in length scar that will be hard to see. I will also forward my two week photo. Carol at 4 months what would you do that would cause you pain again? I love to hear people say that there Dr is the Best, I think that we are all BLESSED to have Dr’s in our regions who do such a great job for us.

Take Care

Carol Russell says on December 20th, 2008 at 9:51 am

When I said I “forget” I’m still healing and it comes back to me, is when I attempt to pick up something heavy, or carry too many things at once (because I try to make one trip instead of 2 or 3). By doing this, it causes some discomfort around the shoulder/chest area. Nothing major, but just enough to remind me I am still healing and need to be patient. Some days I feel so good I completely forget I had my chest cracked open. It just takes time. Thats all. Other than this happening from time to time, I feel wonderful. You will too. Take care!

Paul Kaminski says on January 2nd, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Thank you for the great info – had a aortic valve replacement on Nov 3 2008, had minimally invasive surgery and was glued – Had very similar experiences – with sore left shoulder; difficulty sleeping on my side for about the first month, and a bit of creaking of the sternum – had x-rays at a month – the sternum was healing well, and have been off pain meds since then – however, I am still experiencing sensitivity along the scar – it really HURTS to have anything rub against it – I keep hoping that it will subside – presently use a silk scarf to cushion the scar – it helps.

Bottom line – time does pass, and the symptoms lessen – some more quickly than others – no one said it would be easy! Damn.

Everyone is different, so – I guess – you have to just go with the flow – and use the meds when needed.

Happy New Year

Shannon says on January 5th, 2009 at 6:49 pm

I’m having mitral valve surgery on Thursday, the 8th at MUSC in Charleston. I had an ASD repair at age 5 and now 25 years later getting the mitral vavle taken care of. I really enjoy your blog/website. I found it about 3 months ago. The comments people leave are helpful too.

Emmanuel Ibanez says on February 17th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

hey shannon!

i had mitral valve repair 3 months ago. i recovered pretty fast and with the help of this blog i recovered even better. thanks to adam.

i’d like to think that you are recovering really well by this time. i suggest you get adam’s book. this is what i wish had before my surgery. it would have prepared me even more. my doctors were not very helpful on that although i should say that they did a pretty good job and i have them to thank for the success of my surgery.

be well!

john formby says on February 25th, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Hi Adam
I had my aotic valve replaced at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge UK on 29 January 2018. During my recovery at home I came across your website. I would like to use the opportunity to thank you for all the work you have done in providing informed helpful information for patients like me.
Thank you

John Formby, England

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