Oesophageal Patients Association
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4 weeks since my op (minimally invasive oesphegus removal) 2 weeks out of hospital. I'm getting pain/discomfort under my ribs - more below

The operation and aftermath was surprisingly pain free and I feel well but now the skin under my ribs, away from the scars, feels numb to the touch, lower ribs are sore and the whole area feels uncomfortable. GP is keeping an eye. Has anyone else had this and how long does it last?

6 Replies

Glad to hear you had a pain free op. when you say you have had minimally invasive surgery, does this mean keyhole? I had the large large incision and still after 4 years have pain in my ribs and also the numb feeling that you write of under the ribs, I would imagine this to be quite normal, but perhaps someone else who had your surgery could write with their experience. If there is a support group in your area try and get along to the next one as they are invaluable in the first couple of years.


I'm 1 year after a major op with a scar 300mm long because of a different type of cancer treatment for just T1, and my abdomen is still tight and uncomfortable, and a little pain when getting out of an armchair or bed, so this must be quite normal. Any scar area is never the same just like if you break a bone, you feel the effects years after.

I have a large area that is numb, and again thats normal. The nerves have been cut and the message of touching is not getting to your brain. I had a knee operation 30 years ago and areas are still numb.


i think it maybe something to do with the vegas nerve? had ivor lewis feb... 2010 and still numb under right ribs,


Keyhole surgery does not entail the large openings and long scars, but the job that is done inside the body is just the same. I believe that they pump your inside with air to create more space for the surgery, and it is not surprising if the whole process does have an effect on making things sore. For conventional surgery the rough guideline is that skin heals in 10- 14 days, muscles and incisions regain strength in 2 -3 months, and nerves heal in approximately 9 months. So nerve-type effects do last for a long time afterwards, and it is not a sign of anything being less than completely successful.

There is indeed a whole network of nerves and pathways called the 'vagus nerve' and this has been cut as a necessary result of the operation.

Personally (and mine was a repair of a split oesophagus) it was many weeks before I could take a deep breath and not suffer from a coughing fit or pain. It is natural to want to 'nurse' the affected area, but, long term, it is a good idea to try and gently expand your ribs with breathing and other gentle exercises. The inside of your body is expanding, stretching and contracting all the time so gentle exercise, under the guidance of a physiotherapist, can be very therapeutic. Do not overdo it. Be kind to yourself.


Thanks for these replies. I had the keyhole operation; "minimally invasive" is is something of a misnomer (except in comparison with the alternative large incision) considering what was done and the fine collection of smaller scars of which I'm now the proud owner. I guess I'll just have to wait and see how the aches and numbness turn out....


The pain etc can be bad to start with and unfortunately does last for a while! Thats all normal though.Its does get better in time and I still have the odd twinge now as nerves are still healing.When it was bad for approx 3/4 months I was prescribed oramorph (Oral Morphine) I"m afraid its all part and parcel of recovery I do know what you are putting up with though.My op involved keyhole via the front and the Ivor Lewis scar on back.But 18th months on feeling good although still a struggle with keepin weight on.


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