Patient Q&A: How Fast Does A Heart Surgery Incision Heal?
By Adam Pick on February 5, 2015
I often receive the question, “How fast does a heart surgery incision heal?”
It’s a great question. Unfortunately, I don’t have a precise answer considering that (i) we all heal at different rates and (ii) many of us will have different incision types — from a full sternotomy to a mini-sternotomy to a thoracotomy, etc.
Cristen Marzula – Heart Valve Surgery Patient
That said, Cristen Marzula, from Memphis, Tennessee, just posted an awesome picture in her heart valve journal about the rate at which her incision healed. In the picture below, you will see that Cristen compares her incision 3 days after surgery to a picture of her incision 5 weeks after surgery.
I don’t know about you. But, I think Cristen’s incision looks great — and really, really small!!!
But wait… There’s more to Cristen’s story!
As she writes, “It was during my surgery on December 18, 2014 that Dr. Eric Roselli at the Cleveland Clinic learned that my valve was actually unicuspid. Instead of an entire biological valve replacement, the incredibly skilled Dr. Roselli replaced the partially diseased leaflet with porcine tissue, ultimately creating a healthy bicuspid valve.”
Cristen continues, “In essence, my stem cells could potentially grow to replace the porcine tissue, increasing the longevity of the valve and making it my very own – pretty phenomenal! A Dacron graft was used to replace the diseased tissue of the ascending aorta. I feel truly blessed for the surgical expertise of Dr. Roselli and his genuine compassion for his patients. Thank you Cleveland Clinic for EXCELLENT care!”
Dr. Eric Roselli – Cristen’s Heart Surgeon
Many thanks to Cristen for sharing her pictures and her story with our community. Also, great job to Dr. Roselli for helping Cristen!
Keep on tickin!
John Freedy says on February 14th, 2015 at 2:29 pm
I’ve been told that the full healing of a midline sternotomy takes between 6-12 months. In the early days to 12 weeks surgical (including skin, bone, and underlying muscle) are the most vulnerable to injury. Advice such as to not lift more tha 10 lbs. (weight of a gallon of milk), keeping the incision clean, care in moving from lying down to sitting to standing apply. Symptoms such as numbness, itching, and pain can persist, but are usually most intense for days to weeks following surgery. Midline popping or cracking sensation especially with full, deep breaths can persist for up to one year. Chronic pain is uncommon, but may be experienced by up to 20% at one year post surgery. Exercise, starting with a formal cardiac rehab program can be extremely helpful, both physically and psychologically.