Hello to all.....I am 3 months post-oesophagectomy and just wanted to check what is normal and what isn't. Problems are; pain all around chest area (bruising-type pain), pain bilaterally just below each rib, which is often accompanied with the shoulder pain, pain if I eat just slightly too much especially in the right back area, then lower abdominal pain - made worse if I've had a vomiting episode. Is it also normal for the diaphragm not to function properly for a while? Yawning and sneezing are very difficult and I sound like a seal! I feel I have to take too much dihydrocodeine at the moment too! Any info would be very much appreciated !

11 Replies

  • I am 9 months post Ivor Lewis oesogectomy, the rib pain you are feeling is probably from having your ribs cut because as I understand it, they operate rom the front then turn you onto your left side and go in through your rib cage to remove your nodes to check for cancer in them.

    You should be on medications for the rib pain, I am on lyrica (in Australia). Also on targin and have oxycodone for break through pain.

    Personally I am enjoying eating now as before operation was reduced to eating soup only!

  • When Ivor Lewis is used the surgeon has to remove a rib, collapse a lung and dislocate a shoulder in order to gain access to the areas needed. In my case , 6 years ago, I was still taking dihydrocodeine at time 6 months post op, but I had returned to work albeit 1 day a week to begin with as from month 3. Everyone is different in their feeling of pain, I would suggest that when you next visit your doctor/surgeon you explain the feeling of pain and associated locations so he can check there has been no muscle damage for example around the shoulder. in my case where the muscle was cut across under my arm I still now get some pain,but, the alternative to not having had the operation was not an option. I still get bruising like pain when I do too much with my arm or exert myself too much. Give it time 3 months from such a serious operation is not a lot of time.

  • Hi Amsy. The shoulder pain may well be a result of the position they put you in during the operation. The only thing that will help is physio and using the shoulder. I found that trying to move it as far as possible was bearable but very sore. Doing it once to the limit of my tolerance was very painful. Repeating the movement was much less painful the second and third time. I made this a routine and my shoulder is now fine but it took around 6-8 months for it to settle down. At the time the idea that I could do pullups seemed ridiculous; but I can. Persevere! Haward

  • Hi amsy, I had my ivory Lewis in Feb 2016 and I have the same issues still. bruising sensation around right chest area, discomfort when I've slightly over eaten and yawning sounds like a seal and painful

    . I can only assume this is the norm for people who have had this type of op and would be interesting to hear if others have been affected the same way. It's been 10 months now for me and with no signs of it going think it's something i just have to live with and tolerate. sorry I can't help but thought I'd let you know your not alone.

  • Hi Leon. 10 months is still within the normal time for recovery which is 12-18 months. That bruising sensation in the right ribs recedes over time. Even 3.5 years later I still have a vague numb feeling there. With 25% of my stomach gone overeating is hazardous. I sometimes get bloated, sometimes the food reappears too quickly. It does get better with time but you don't return to where you were. Haward

  • Thank you Haward for your reply. although I've had so many complications since the operation I'm just glad they were able to remove the dreaded cancer,anything I guess is worth tolerating than having that growing inside ya.

  • I am 14 months out from my Ivor Lewis and never had the bruised sensation in the rib area but I would like to re-emphasize Haward's point about overeating--it will get you every time, I think. Something that has helped me immensely is to chew gum immediately after eating--it provides enzymes for digestion in one's saliva and seems to help move the food along as well. I also have near-constant reflux issues and the gum helps there as well.

  • Amsy

    I did not have the Ivor Lewis. I had a Transchiatal Oesophagectomy (same result, different operation). I am now 2 year post surgery in St Thomas's.

    I think what you describe is "normal". I (like many others on here) have suffered with a constant left shoulder pain. This starts in my shoulder and spreads around to my left front rib cage area. I did not have any ribs removed or broken and the surgeon is baffled, as are others, as to what causes this. I am told that I was not "left arm stretched"during surgery. I think that we now all agree that it is likely to be nerve damage. I treat it with dihydrocodiene, which makes it bearable, but it is always there in the background and gets significantly worse when walking or bending over into car engine bays (I love working on my old cars). But the half bent, stretching position is a trigger.

    The stomach/chest/abdomen pains are receding, but are (in me) 100% triggered by eating too much or drinking too much. I have now accepted that my no pain food & drink intake is tiny, probably around the two oat cakes limit. Any more, then I am just going to be sore for a few hours. Trapped wind is/was an issue for me which is improving now. Partly through diet and eating less and not eating after 19:00.

    The big issue is that every pain can be seen as a recurrence and that is just not fun. I now find a perverse comfort in hearing that others have the same pains but no recurrence. I tell myself that it is a pain and it will go, and it does.

    I wish you well. It's a journey but this is a great pkace to come for knowledge.


  • Did you have the minimally invasive type of surgery? I had the laparoscopic robotic Ivor Lewis surgery and after about 8 days in the hospital I went home with just extra-strength Tylenol as a pain medication, as I didn't really need anything stronger and didn't want to chance getting addicted to opiates. If you didn't have the minimally invasive surgery it would make sense that you have so much pain still, which will likely dissipate gradually.

  • Thank you so much to all of you for the replies - I really appreciate all the advice/info given!

  • The yawning, stretching or deep breaths put some pressure on the rib cage / chest area, and may well set you off coughing, but gradually and progressively exercising / stretching should gradually improve it over time.

    Check your breathing so that your stomach goes out when you breathe in, and vice versa. Vomiting does strain the system and leave you feeling bruised.

    So it sounds like all you are feeling is a normal part of the road to full recovery - which always takes frustratingly longer than we would all wish.

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