Chest pain: First time posting on here... - British Heart Fou...

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Chest pain

Pundles profile image

First time posting on here.

Can anyone tell me how long your chest hurts after CABG surgery?

Had my op two weeks ago and progressing well with exercise, 2000 steps today, impatient to get back to normal but can’t get my lungs filled enough to improve my breathing.

31 Replies

It took me about seven or eight weeks before I felt my lungs were back to normal, and that was with quite an aggressive recovery campaign. So upwards of ten cycles of breathing/huffing/coughing exercises per day, and a steadily increasing daily walk which was up to about five miles after about six weeks.

Our lungs collapse as soon as the chest wall is punctured, and then remain collapsed for the seven or eight hours of the operation. Fully reflating all the pockets of micro collapse is a very big job, but don't get despondent, with application it will happen.

Two weeks is still very early in the recovery journey. Full credit to you for pushing on, but don't overreach and set yourself back.

Good luck!

Pundles profile image
Pundles in reply to Chappychap

Thanks CC, a good explanation. I have an incentive spirometer supplied by the private hospital which measures lung capacity but it can be disappointing when there is little progress.My wife commented I wasn’t showing much progress, so suggested she try. She couldn’t even reach my level, enough said.

Two weeks is very early in your recovery. Did the hospital give you a list of do’s and dont’s ? Very important you don’t overdo anything for first six weeks to give your sternum a chance to knit back together. As for your breathiyand lungs do the breathing exercise you must have been given in hospital Good luck

Pundles profile image
Pundles in reply to gilreid1

The only thing I was told was not to lift anything heavier than a half full kettle.Advise was a bit sparse, cardio rehab seems to be way behind following up on patients. I was contacted just before admission, which we thought strange, it turned out it was following up on the PCI I had 18 months earlier.

gilreid1 profile image
gilreid1 in reply to Pundles

Contact your local GP to arrange a cardio nurse to visit if they have not already or call the BHF nurses on hear they will advise you on a rehab program

gilreid1 profile image
gilreid1 in reply to Pundles

Just read one of your replies. Did you have your procedure done private ?

Pundles profile image
Pundles in reply to gilreid1

NHS surgeon in a private hospital, The Priory Hospital, Edgbaston Birmingham.

gilreid1 profile image
gilreid1 in reply to Pundles

Think they are all NHS. When I saw my surgeon I chose not to go private when he informed me that he was available locally and only one week difference in waiting time. Then I found out that aftercare was not included going private. You need to speak with your local cardio nurses. Have the been to visit you since your surgery? You also need to arrange to see your GP for review normally five to six weeks. Then you will be seen by your surgeon and all being well he will advise that all is now in the hands of your GP. If easier call the BHF nurses on here they will help you.

Pundles profile image
Pundles in reply to gilreid1

I’m in touch with my physio and called cardio rehab (who promised to call back last week but haven’t), seen GP for a rare face to face consult, and he was happy with progress. Are the BHF nurses on a phone line or just text?

gilreid1 profile image
gilreid1 in reply to Pundles

On home page under About

If you have any questions or concerns, and would like to speak with one of our cardiac nurses, please do contact our Heart Helpline team on 0300 330 3311 Mon-Fri 9-5pm or email hearthelpline@bhf.org.uk

Pundles profile image
Pundles in reply to gilreid1

Thanks, will call next week.

gilreid1 profile image
gilreid1 in reply to Pundles

No problem. Good luck on your journey. Six slow deep breaths every hour works wonders. Just don’t strain.

Heather1957 profile image
Heather1957 in reply to Pundles

Most surgeons are both private and NHS. If you paid it was private although I would have thought you would have to pay to have the op done at the Priory (maybe BUPA). No matter where you had the surgery you should have had some do's and don'ts. My understanding is that after 6 weeks you should have a follow up appointment where it is likely you will be discharged by the surgeon.

You cannot (no insurance) drive until given this 6 week clearance by the surgeon or his/her representative.

I went in with a list of questions all written down in case I forgot anything.

I think we are all different so hard to give a definitive answer. I suffered for weeks with muscular pain, I was confident it was muscular so didn't panic, when I was cleared to drive I suffered some pain every time I got out of the car so took a break for a week. Deep breaths was a problem but although I can't 100% remember I am sure I did some breathing exercises in an effort to improve my lung capacity.You are doing really well it is ONLY 2 weeks ago you had major open heart surgery, ONLY 2 weeks ago. You need to be kind to yourself and your body. Take a minute to think what the operation entails and hopefully you will realise that it will take a bit of time but if you do it properly it'll heal beautifully.

Hi Pundles - I’m now 4 months post op - and only the past couple of weeks felt my chest easing and the pain , niggles , tweaks etc etc gone - initially I was quite worried about the breathing and don’t feel I was informed enough about the impact on my lungs - I was told by cardiac nurses it was all to be expected which reassured me and I became more patient - at 12 weeks I started going to local pool as term time and quiet , I did gentle exercise in water for about half an hour , this has helped enormously and I’m now swimming well - set yourself little targets in terms of your walking , do the relaxation / breathing exercise / rest / sleep when you can and your body will recover in time . Hot showers on the chest and deep heat cream also helped - all the best for a good recovery,

Cee-Cee1 profile image
Cee-Cee1 in reply to Puffin1963

I agree with you Puffin about the showers - I'm now 4 and a half months post-op for a triple by-pass. I was a little wary at first and felt I was protecting the wound by just nipping in and out of the shower. I had the Dermabond dressing removed after 10 days (15 days post-op) and, one morning, just went for it with not too hot water and stood under the shower letting the water drench my wound for ages - felt really great afterwards. I used a non-perfumed shower gel to stop any stinging. Once the wound was properly healed I started using Bio oil.

Pundles profile image
Pundles in reply to Cee-Cee1

I’ll give that a try, not showering every day as taking off and refitting the socks is a major operation.

Puffin1963 profile image
Puffin1963 in reply to Pundles

Oh yes those bloody socks !!! Forgot about those

Cee-Cee1 profile image
Cee-Cee1 in reply to Pundles

I feel really lucky - I didn't have the socks. I had to put them on the day of the op (flippin' nightmare they were) and as soon as I got to the theatre they took them off again!

Pundles profile image
Pundles in reply to Cee-Cee1

That was because you were better able to stamp your feet for an encore!

Had my cabg 11 weeks ago, n I still feel pain off n on coughing, farting (sorry), sneezing, laughing, n worse hiccups! Do you know what they did to us? It's as bad as if we were in car crash.

I think we were used as footballs. I have only sneezed twice and it has to be the worst torture knowing nothing you can do will stop it.

Puffin1963 profile image
Puffin1963 in reply to Pundles

The surgeon actually described the op to me as a controlled car crash to the chest - the heart heals quickly , it’s the sternum , muscles and nerves that need to heal and it takes a long time

Pundles, grab your heart pillow to your chest bend ur head down squeeze pillow and try sneezing with mouth.

I had mine 5 weeks ago, I'm doing housework but no lifting or vacuuming. I get out of breath still if I overdo it, so take a rest. I'm walking 3 miles so far.2 weeks is early days but you will improve daily, at 5 weeks, apart from pain over my breasts, I feel quite normal. At 2 weeks I was still coughing up. I started rubbing ibuprofen on my breasts to stop pain and wear a support bra.

I overdid it last weekend and believe me, I was wiped out and in floods of tears.

Take time to heal, listen to your body.

Pundles profile image
Pundles in reply to Chrissiemids

Poor you! It’s hard to relax when you are used to doing so much.

Hi pundlesWife had her op 12 years ago and to this day she still gets regular pain

It does take a while. Make sure that you do the coughing exercises to clear the lungs. I didn't do enough and finished up with an effusion in the lungs. Another niggling problem is that the scar has healed very well at the top, but less well mid breast. I have about 2 inches length that remains stubbornly red and angry over a year on and defies any attempt to sooth it. I think it's because the area stretches as you go about your day, so it never gets the respite it needs to heal properly. I'm slim too, so I don't have a lot of surplus flesh to cushion it. Beyond that, my main issue has been the nerve damage. Sort of tingly, and if I touch the chest lightly I get the tingle down the left arm. Bit weird and I hope it eventually goes away, but I do know that permanent nerve damage can occur when they cut you this way. Better then being dead though.

This is quite a good guide to recovery: nhs.uk/conditions/coronary-....

I had a CABG about 16 years ago when I was 47. As you've had your breastbone cracked open, you can expect about 6 weeks discomfort from that (like any broken bone). The surgeon has also done some fiddling about inside your chest and your heart, lungs etc will effectively be bruised from that, For me, it was the first time in my life, I realised I couldn't make nature go much faster than it wanted. As a younger patient and relatively fit, I was always a bit ahead of the recovery curve - in terms of tasks like shopping, loading the washing machine etc. etc.

Nevertheless I was fit enough to go back to work after about 8 weeks. I wish I'd had longer off - maybe 10-12 weeks - so I could have had a couple of weeks at home feeling well :-)

6 months to the day after my op I climbed Snowdon with my sons and raised a shed load of money for the BHF and my local cardiac group. You can read about it here: myluckyheart.blogspot.com/.

By the way 16 years, further on, there is not a day goes by when I don't remember what happened ... but I live with it ... and I am so happy to see my kids grown up and to know my grandkids :-). These were all pleasures that could have been denied to me. :-)

So my conclusion: don't rush and you will get there. :-)

Fish4Info profile image
Fish4Info in reply to Fish4Info

P.S. I had a private op in an NHS hospital - the JR2 in Oxford. When I was first diagnosed, the NHS couldn't give a timescale for the op. I was a scared single parent to teenagers, but had BUPA too (work). So I went private - staying in the private ward in the JR2. I was third on the surgeons list the day I was done - after the NHS patients had been done - and using NHS resources that the NHS couldn't use because it had spent its money for the day. [This is all crazy, btw ... but that's another debate.] After the op I had to revert to the NHS for rehab ... but I saved the NHS about £20k (in 2006) by having a private op. The surgeon (who works for the NHS too and teaches cardiothoracic surgery) requested that I was kept in NHS Cardiac Intensive Care after the op ... because it is better than staying on the private ward. They know what they are doing on the cardiac recovery ward. The NHS cross charged BUPA for the privilege I enjoyed. :-)

Be patient. It will heal thru time. Dont hurry things, take it slowly and surely. Follow all doctors orders. Stay safe.

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