Feel as if chest has scaffolding on it - British Heart Fou...

British Heart Foundation
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Feel as if chest has scaffolding on it


I had a CABGx4 at the Bristol Heart Institute which went well according to the medics. Wounds seem to be healing nicely as far as I can tell but I get a sometimes uncomfortable feeling of tightness and numbness in the upper chest area. It feels as if I've got scaffolding on my chest whenever I get up and walk about.

Has anyone else had experience of this - oh, and occasional oedema in my left foot and ankle on the harvested leg.

Eager to hear about other people's experiences!

13 Replies


When did you have the op?

I had a CABGx2 6 months ago. All went well and recovery was steady but as most will tell you have had good and bad days. Followed a strict diet and rehab regime etc. Lately I have been experiencing stinging sensations and proper discomfort in my chest especially around the incision and on the left side having not really had the issue before other than tenderness in the first couple of months. This has been quite disconcerting as I imagined after 6 months this sort of thing would have passed. I am told by the medics that it is my nerves sorting themselves out and also the scar tissue.

I have come to accept that recovery is not a straight line and that given the significant nature of the op there will be all manner of sensations and niggles to contend with. Main thing is the heart itself is good and inspite of this really annoying discomfort I am so much better now than 6 months back. I still take paracetamol regularly and try to keep active. So I would say it is completely normal to have this tightness and discomfort with CABG. Also I figure 12 months is the appropriate waypoint for most of it to disappear but probably not entirely.

1043590 in reply to Ferrari10

Many thanks for your reply. It's really helpful knowing about other folk's experiences. Sorry, I am a dope! I should have mentioned my op was on 24 February this year so I'm just over seven weeks into recovery.

Elvee2 in reply to 1043590

Hi, I think you just need to be a patient patient! 7 weeks is early days, everything gets better, but slowly. I’m now 4 months post bypass and am amazed by how well I feel now. I remember thinking that 5-minute walks were excessive when I was first home, now I could happily do an hour (but Covid prevents!). Chest is definitely nerves - but I agree still feels as if you’re not “together” yet - give it time, it does get better - massage can help. Also yes, leg and ankle take time too - again massage with bio oil or silicone gel helps. I’ve sorted out my shoes, some I can wear, the rest in the cupboard for another day. Best wishes, you’re over the worst now.

1043590 in reply to Elvee2

Hi Elvee2, thanks for such an encouraging reply! I think I'm a bit impatient with myself but I'm going to chill a bit more and let Mother Nature (hopefully!) work her magic!

tara3102 in reply to 1043590

Me too had the CABG on 24th Feb. in Houston, Texas. Slowly but surely recovering. Yes, Ups and downs in energy level. Bt able to do all of my chores and walk a lot withinh the house. Can't go anywhere anyway, COVID 19 keeps me home for a good reason!!!

Hi 1043590

I am nearly 4 years on from my surgery bypass and AVR. They harvested my artery from my left side of my chest and this was numb for 6 months after surgery, stingy pains I described it as if someone had pulled an Elastoplast off! My surgeon said when they take the artery they pull it out! So the nerves sometimes take a while to sort themselves out and joining back together. Sorry can’t help with the swelling but would imagine it’s because of where they harvested one of your artery’s make sure you sit with your leg raised if possible.

Hope you continue to make good progress, it’s a road us hearties are all travelling, onwards and upwards.

Stay safe Pauline

1043590 in reply to 080311

Thanks Pauline. I guess it's early days for me on the road to recovery. I get the impression from other posts that the medics tend to underplay the after effects of the surgery and overplay what you'll be able to do in fairly short timescales. I think eight weeks after surgery I should be able to jog and cycle but I can't see it happening. Twelve weeks maybe! Richard

080311 in reply to 1043590

Hi, we are all different, and all come from different starting points fitnesses wise. You will get back but you have to build up your stamina remember you have had major surgery and it does take time.

You will be back jogging and cycling before you know it. With all that is going on and no cardio rehab happening it’s making things more difficult, but once we are back to normal and you are doing rehab you will be off and running!

Best wishes Pauline

In case you do not know. The way they put your chest back together is by wiring the two halves of your breast bone (sternum) together with the intention (hope) that is binds together aft about 6 weeks and becomes one bone again.Be careful because if you are one on a million like me the wires break and you end up with them not binding and a gap between to two halves; something that is rare and no one in the country seems to do anything about. So take care not to strain your wires. Some of the exercises they asked me to do I feel was detrimental so think about what you are doing. Certainly do as much walking as possible, it is terribly good for you. Good luck. By the way you get lots of funny feelings and GPs seem to know very little about anything. Walk walk and walk!

1043590 in reply to horac

Hi horac, I'm pretty careful about what I carry and push around. A lot of things get kicked into position, such as a dining room chair, rather than moved by ha d as it seems to cause less strain on the chest.

I often wonder if you can tell if the sternum has healed or whether it can only be confirmed by x-ray. I'm sorry yours didn't. Does this mean that you're limited in what you can carry?

Best wishes


horac in reply to 1043590

Yes lifting is restricted. As time progresses muscles develop and I improve. I am much better than before, however I have a hernia that pushes through the gap in my chest and causes discomfort, over eating is not encouraged. Time is a great healer, do not expect too much too soon and go easy, it is a big op and whilst you need to keep your circulation going with walking you need to choose carefully your activity, at least for a few years

I need to start this Off with I am not a Negative Person in the Least.

I wake up most morning and it feels like I have been sleeping with a heavy book on my chest, around left breast area. It will disappear when I get up and start to move around. I am also aware of a slight discomfort when it pulls should I try to breathe deeply ( Like for an Echocardiogram ) and now for the Negative bit It's been 5 years since my CABG, as I say to my Heart Nurse it's been 5 years and hasn't killed me yet lol So don't worry it may or may not get 100% better, but just think your hearts been fixed.

Stay Well

Stay Safe

This is interesting. I'm ten months on and I too have feelings of compression in my chest, but with no signs of cardiovascular difficulty. I've discussed it by phone with a doctor; I think they'd have done tests, but for the current situation, so we agreed to monitor. So it's encouraging to read what others have read above, which sounds similar.

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