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About how long does it take for the sternum to heal and get the feeling back after open heart surgery?


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Health Ace
6880 posts
How long ago did you get your zipper?

I got mine in 1996 and it still hurts if I lean against anything that puts pressure on my sternum. Makes it a b***h to work under the hood of my car. I can't sleep on my stomach because that pushes it against the bed. I can't sleep on my back because the skin of my belly pulling down over it makes it uncomfortable enough so I can't go to sleep. When I hug my wife I have to bend forward so it doesn't come in contact with her belly. I had severe nausea a few times in the weeks following the surgery. Eventually I discovered it was caused by hitting (touching) the sternum. It hurt like hell at the time it got touched but the nausea didn't come on untill 4 hours later, so it took me a few weeks to determine the cause and effect.

For the first 6 months at least, I was in severe pain if I touched it. Like my hand brushed against it while turning the steering wheel in the car. during the years since, it has become less painful but has not gone away.

I asked the heart surgeon about it when I went in for a checkup a few months after the surgery. It stuck out like there was a finger inside pushing the skin out just below my ribs, several inches above my belly button. He said it was a hernia where the esophagus goes through the diaphragm. Said it was quite common after heart surgery and offered to do another surgery to fix it for about half the cost of the heart surgery.

I was sure he was wrong because it wasn't soft. It was hard like a piece of bone. About a year later I got them to x-ray it at the VA and they called it a deflected sternum. They showed me the x-rays and in the side view you can see the little tail bone part of the sternum pointing forward just like the "finger" in my mind.

The sternum is made up of three sections with that being the lower. The skin and muscles over the middle section (breast bone) which would be the pectoral muscles, was kind of numb for several months. They got a little tingly as the feeling began to come back and the two sides didn't do it at the same time. I didn't have a very large area that was numb though. It hurt every time they pulled the EKG pads off my chest hairs but some parts of my chest were numb on both sides.

Have you started cardiac rehab?