Pain following quadruple bypass - British Heart Fou...

British Heart Foundation
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Pain following quadruple bypass


Hi all. Sorry to keep going on about hubby!

I know people recover from major surgery at different rates. I felt really good about his recovery yesterday. 6 days after discharge, his appetite is picking up, constipation is not causing much of a problem and he has been for short walks (exhausting but he's making a real effort). The problem of pain when sitting/lying in bed seems to be getting worse. Bruising is really coming out now around the chest, side and leg where veins were 'harvested'. One positive today was the removal of 32 staples along one leg!

If anyone has been through this operation, is this quite normal? The hospital booklet doesn't really talk of one step forward and two back but I'm thinking this might be the case.

Thank you all so much for listening to me ramble xxx

14 Replies

Tomorrow I'll be five weeks post a triple bypass. My sleep is still in two to three hour chunks as I can only sleep on my right hand side and after a while it becomes uncomfortable, so I wake and need to stand up and move around for a few minutes.

I'd categorise this as "discomfort" rather than "pain", and I made the decision a week ago to stop taking any pain killers (the codeine supplied upon discharge has run out and I don't want any more as it's notoriously addictive, and the "over the counter" paracetamol seems a bit pointless).

I suspect all this relates to the healing of the sternum, and therefore I'm guessing that sleep won't really improve until eight to twelve weeks post operation? That's okay, we just have to be patient, we'll get through it.

In my opinion the most important thing that contributes towards a feeling of progress, recovery and wellbeing is the breathing improvements that come from walking. I'm up to 30 minutes plus each day of brisk walks incorporating some hills. But I'm under no illusion that fully reflating my lungs will require more than this, I've no idea how much more but I'm looking forward to commencing the cardiac rehabilitation classes in a couple of weeks where I'm sure I'll be able to fill in these knowledge gaps and get some excellent advice.

If I could speak to your husband and pass on some advice it would be this, don't allow yourself to become the victim. Sure, there'll be elements of his recovery that he's frustrated with, but equally there'll be other areas where he's pleased with progress. He should be patient with the slower areas and celebrate the better areas, focussing on his achievements rather than becoming despondent over the areas of slower progress.

Excellent reply!

in reply to Chappychap

Hi Chappychap. You're an inspiration. Thank you so much xx


Yes it seems we all recover at different rates but more importantly we all seem to have different experiences too. 6 days after my discharge I was having horrendous constipation problems. It was almost the worst part of the whole thing for me!

I didn't suffer so much from pain while sitting/lying in bed but after only 6 days it was impossible for me to get up without being helped.

Is he still taking his pain killers? I was only prescribed ordinary paracetamol but it was a number of weeks before I weaned myself off of them.

Some people talk about good days and bad, one step forward and two steps back. For me in honesty it was just very slow but gradual improvement.

Bruising around the chest? Nope not for me, but I do have an area on the left side of my chest that still feels numb nearly five months later!

32 staples removed, wow! I had none. My leg was glued back together.

So all in all if there was a booklet based around mine and your hubby's experience it would be a bit of a mix!

It sounds like he's doing just fine to me.

All the best.


Wow 32 staples! I just have two one inch incisions on my left leg, one by the ankle one by my groin, no pain at all. That must be very painful for him.

I wish you both well

in reply to Gooner045

His chest was glued, his chest drains stitched (which the nurse at the GP removing them likened to strimmer cord!!) and the leg from ankle to groin was stapled (staple gun I think!!!). He deserves a bit of sympathy I guess!

Thank you so much for your good wishes xx

in reply to Handel

Btw, nothing on earth prepares you for the pain of your first unannounced sneeze, the pain is horrendous, when not expecting it, worse than having the drains pulled! 😣😣

That's true, sneezes and coughs are painful, although the pain only lasts for a fraction of a second.

If you're not pushing yourself a bit with walking then you're more likely to need to cough. The body is trying to clear the mucus from the lungs, it can do this naturally and imperceptibly with the kind of deep breathing that comes from brisk walking, but in the absence of deep breathing then the body has no alternative but coughing.

That's another reason why walking a bit more each day is really important following heart surgery. Your lungs are full of small pockets where the lungs collapsed during surgery, reflating them all and regaining full lung capacity will take several weeks and quite a determined approach from the patient. But it's absolutely worth it. I think there's a strong case to be made that you primarily measure your post operative wellbeing by your lung capacity, the aggravation from wounds or constipation or all the rest is real enough, but if you're making progress with your lungs then all these other things somehow feel peripheral and less important.

That's why I keep recommending that the best medicine of all is your daily walks, and conducting them in a methodical way so that you can measure progress. One tip I've heard is that if the weather turns nasty then try walking in an undercover

shopping mall, that might be relevant for some people.

in reply to Chappychap

You've got some invaluable advice Chappychap. He came out with me for a fairly brisk and longer walk this morning. No breathlessness during the walk. It's really useful to know about the lung collapse stuff. I had no idea but armed with this advice, we can move forward and push a little harder day by day.

You're right of course. Once the major organs are working well, everything else will fall into place.

Taking him to the local indoor shopping mall tomorrow. Distractions and chance to stop for a coffee will make this less of a chore. Thank you so much xx

in reply to invictaAlec

Thank you invictaAlec. His chest was glued, his chest drains stitched (which the nurse at the GP removing them likened to strimmer cord!!) and the leg from ankle to groin was stapled (staple gun I think!!!).

It's just reassuring to know that others have been through similar stuff and are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Once again, thank you and best wishes in your recovery xx

Hi Handel

My quad will be 3 years April. I remember the discomfort in the chest keeping me awake at night but I bought some "V" shape pillows which really helped. It also took a long time to reinflate my right lung. My leg was also glued but it itched like mad. Each day was a little better and I listened to all the advice at the cardio rehab. It is frustrating not being able to do the stuff I used to do but when I think about it, I'm just genuinely glad to be alive.

Good luck with his recovery


in reply to Phil-52

Thanks Phil. We're still waiting for rehab but it's only been a week (at 9pm tonight) since he was discharged. V shaped pillows were the first thing I bought when hubby was in hospital. Very useful things. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience. Once the swelling and scars start to fade, he'll be in a better frame of mind. After 45 years of being married, he is actually listening to me now!! xxx

It really is early days yet, I would say around week 6 - 8 I was beginning to feel normal ish! He is doing great really, tell him not to be too hard on himself and he is doing great. Have you been told about washing the wounds? One towel for normal showering and another one to specifically dry the wounds. To try to stop cross infection. The fact that he is walking also will bring great improvements. Best of luck x

Hi Wiltsgirl.

Not really had any real info on wound washing but common sense is prevailing! He's got separate towels to wash himself and his wounds so the washing machine is on quite a bit. I won't even dry towels he's using on radiators just in case - he has clean ones!!

He really is doing well if only he could see that. He just can't sleep or sit for any length of time but the plus point is he's walking around the house.

I'm taking him out tomorrow to Touchwood which is a lovely shopping mall. He says he wants to buy me something nice for putting up with him!! Married 45 years and he still makes me cry!!! Bless him.

Thank you so much for your advice. It really is appreciated. xxxx

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