post op pain: It is nearly 5 years... - Oesophageal Patie...

Oesophageal Patients Association
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post op pain

It is nearly 5 years since I had my op and I am still experiencing pain on my right side under my rib cage. This can be worse in cold weather. I also get pain at the sight of my chest drain which I had inserted for 8 weeks following surgery as I developed a leak at the join of my oesophagus and my "new stomach" It has been mentioned to me that all this could be nerve damage. Any tips for managing the pain?

11 Replies

I can identify with this chest pain. It is four years since my op and I was told it could be "nerve damage" that could be "sorted" Looking forward to answers!



I experienced pain after major hernia surgery since my Oesophageal op and the only answer I was given was to go to a pain clinic for a steroid injection. During the waiting time my pain passed even though it had taken about a year of healing to do so, so I didn't take up the offer. Maybe you could ask to go down this route? I wish you better soon it's no fun having to hold the area to cough or sneeze or even to walk, I remember it well.



Me too! Discomfort and pain comes and goes in cycles, around one of the chest drain sites. Swelling, too, sometimes a small hard raised area (almost like distortion of the ribs) the size of a third of a golf ball, sometimes shallower and over a wider area, like this morning.

I was 'done' nearly three years ago and had the problem almost immediately, going back in during October 2009 for an excision of stitch material that had been left inside and not dissolved.

I was then fine for a year but the swelling, which at that time still looked like infection or a stitch sinus, came back and I went back in for another excision in May 2010 - 'nothing found'.

Since then, no more signs of infection, but I am still having these occasional episodes of discomfort and raised bony areas. My GPs and consultant do not know what it is and, for now, I am just living with it, with maximum dose soluble paracetamol for a few days each time. I've not actually managed to get an appointment with the consultant at the time the swelling is there, it goes by the time each appointment came round!

If that's the price to pay for still being here, I'll live with it, but it does wear me down sometimes.

John in Grantham


According to one of the surgeons who have us a talk, nerves heal after about 9 months, usually. Usually! But I do get the impression that there are quite a lot of people who do have lingering pain long after it has all meant to have settled down. I occasionally get itching on the site of my feeding tube, but it is not significant at all.

I think that you have gone on long enough after surgery to feel justified in seeing whether anything can be done about it. I suspect that there are neurologists around who might be able to do something clever to block the pain in some nerves, perhaps something like Verena was offered.

So the first port of call would be to contact your specialist nurse and have a discussion about whether anything can be done. It is not a criticism of the original surgery; just that sometimes nerves do continue to jangle. And it does drag you down. So just because the surgery was otherwise successful does not mean that we simply have to 'put up' with things!

The other thing I wonder about is whether it is worse when you take a deep breath? Perhaps it is worse if the ribs get stretched, and maybe, just maybe, some kind of physiotherapy might be considered?

The chest drain issue sounds different. I really don't know, but I wonder if it might be some kind of infection that appears periodically and then clears itself up?

Happy New year to everyone!



I had to take co-dydramol for about 12 years after my surgery for various aches and pains. Scaled down from 6 a day to one a day and stopped completely about a year ago. Small price to pay for still being here!


Speaking as a bilateral amputee I can go on for days about 'phantom pain' in my non-existent legs. All the nerves are severed and left to heal on their own. There isn't anything available to kill the pain you have to tough it out. The only good thing is that my chest pain isn't nearly as bad as my leg pain.


Free Wheels,

Have you looked into Calmare? I have no experience with it helping but I've read it helps with phantom pain. Good luck


Dawn Williams, our OPA patient support in Solihull, is giving us a talk on Saturday 4 February at 10.30am at Bart's hospital (Great Hall) on 'Nerves and Pathways - Is this why I was feeling so ill?' so if you would like to come along you will be most welcome!

Let me know of you need any further details.



Unfortunately this is to far for me to travel but would be very interested to hear from anyone who does attend. I spoke to Dawn last year and her comments were very helpful.


Hi Lilia,

Sorry to hear about your suffering, but you do not need to put up with it. I too suffer from painful "nerve damage" at the site of my oesophagectomy scar. However, this has been alleviated by having a nerve block procedure along the scar (injections). Any residual pain is managed by taking prescription Gabapentin capsules. Do discuss your problem with your surgeon or nurse specialist at the next appointment. Do not suffer.



What type of nerve block was it? We tried some but the pain felt deeper than the nerve block could reach. Any info would be appreciated


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