Seperated sternum post open heart. Has anyone heard about this?

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New Member

Date Joined Mar 2006
Total Posts : 8
   Posted 4/1/2006 1:04 PM (GMT -6)   
Post open heart surgery my sternum did not fuse, the wires snapped also.  Then I returned for another rewiring procedure and it failed also.  They used a more durable and strong wire and yet they still broke.  As a result my sternum did not fuse or heal together.  Has anyone ever had this problem.  Please respond. 
Thanks guys

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2005
Total Posts : 4029
   Posted 4/1/2006 1:24 PM (GMT -6)   

Hi valentine,  Welcome to Healing Well forum. 

All I can say is wow!!  I cant imagine going through that.  I am so sorry.  I only have a pacemaker that I keep pulling the wires out of...and that is painful enuf.  What are the doctors going to do now?  Is there anything that they can do?

ways to help support healing well:

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2006
Total Posts : 289
   Posted 4/2/2006 12:10 PM (GMT -6)   

So sorry to hear of these problems. I have heard of them before. I do know that people with diabetes, or who are obese, are more susceptible to separation of the sternum.

There is lots of information on the web about this subject. If they have to, I think they can put in a metal plate!

Here is an excerpt I found with a doctor answering questions about sternal healing and separation: 


Response to questions by Dr.J.F.Morin

Chest Pain Post open Heart Surgery
Most patients undergoing open heart surgery for a congenital defect, valve repair or replacement or coronary artery bypass will have incisional pain that subsides gradually over the first month post-surgery. This pain is aggravated by coughing, sneezing, rotation of the chest or elevation of the arms. Due to the fact that they lie on their back for quite a while (4-5 hours in the operating room and 12-24 hours in the intensive care unit) the patients complain of thoracic and lumbar back pain that resolves within two to three weeks. Shoulder pain irradiating to the arms and fingers is not unusual. This is related to over stretching of brachial nerves while opening the sternum to perform the surgery. The incisional sternal pain is described as an ache. Many patients report a sensation of numbness on the left side of their chest which results from the dissection of the internal mammary artery. Some patients can barely wear a shirt for a few weeks following their surgery due to a hyperesthesia over their sternal skin. Fortunately, all these malaises subside within 1 or 2 months post surgery.
In a small number of cases, the sternal pain is out of proportion or persists beyond the expected recovery period. In these patients, a wound complication such as sternal dehiscence or infection has to be ruled out. Sternal dehiscence and/or infection is rare (2-5%) but dreadful for the surgeon and patient. Dehiscence of the sternum is usually, but not necessarily, secondary to infection. The infection prevents the bone healing process and leads to mediastinitis and sternal instability. These patients are usually septic and require urgent debridement of the infected and necrotic bone and reclosure of the sternum and/or a muscle flap to cover the bone defect. Some predisposing factors leading to this complication have been identified such as obesity, diabetes, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease requiring prolonged ventilation post-operatively and patients where both mammary arteries were used. In older patients with osteoporotic bone, the sternal wires may cut through the bone and lead to dehiscence without fever. These patients complain of "clicking" sternum or sternal pain while turning, coughing or elevating their upper extremities. This pain is bearable but annoying for most patients. One option for the patient is to live with this unstable sternum. The pain subsides with time but may come back while the patient is participating in strenuous exercise. However, this condition never compromises the cardiac or pulmonary function of the patient. the other option is to rewire their sternum. Occasionally, the persistent pain arise from non-union of a broken rib, dislocation of a costo-chondral junction, or a subcutaneous stitch or wire. Other causes have to be ruled out in cases of persistent chest pain post open heart surgery. A small proportion of patients (10%) have closure of a coronary artery graft with recurrent angina. This condition is usually quite well identified by the patient who experiences the same kind of pain as before surgery.

On rare occasions, especially in-patients with atypical angina symptoms, the patient may have an unrecognized lung, gastroesophageal or psychosomatic disorder. A few weeks post surgery, some patients present post-cardiotomy syndrome (Dressler's Syndrome) manifested by pleuretic chest pain (pain with deep breathing), fever, fatigue and pleural and/or pericardial rub on auscultation. This inflammatory process resolves spontaneously within a few weeks in most patients. On occasions, they may require antiflammatory drugs to relieve their symptoms.

The most difficult situation is when a patient has chronic sternal pain and all other conditions have been ruled out. In my practice, I have a patient that I have been following for the past 2 years for continuous sternaI pain post coronary artery bypass surgery. He has been taking pain killers (codeine) regularly without great relief. Local anesthesia (tested of the sternal skin did not help much. The pain clinic was unsuccessful (biofeedback) in controlling the pain, and suggested long term pain killer intake. A CAT scan of the chest and gallium scans when repeated were negative. Removal of the sternal wires did not help. the only option left, if the patient cannot tolerate the pain, might be removal of the sternum! I am not too keen in doing so......

New Member

Date Joined Feb 2013
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 2/4/2013 5:19 AM (GMT -6)   
I had the same problem. Sternum was unstable and separated. Had 2 surgeries to remove pins and then had 5 plates put in about 8 months ago. Sternum does not move however still have a lot of pain in chest and breasts are swollen. I am under care of pain management, cardiologist and still no relief of pain. I heard this could take 5 to 7 years to heal completely. mad

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jan 2003
Total Posts : 1063
   Posted 2/4/2013 10:15 AM (GMT -6)   
OMG. I just wanted to say how sorry I am that both of you have this. I can't even imagine how terrible that must be. I had open heart surgery on May and have completely healed and just can't imagine that happening. Yikes!

New Member

Date Joined Mar 2014
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 3/23/2014 5:56 AM (GMT -6)   
Kmpf51 said...
I had the same problem. Sternum was unstable and separated. Had 2 surgeries to remove pins and then had 5 plates put in about 8 months ago. Sternum does not move however still have a lot of pain in chest and breasts are swollen. I am under care of pain management, cardiologist and still no relief of pain. I heard this could take 5 to 7 years to heal completely. mad
hi mate i had the same things happen to me ,but i,ve only five plates and 20 screws 8 months ago .still in a lot of pain and lots of painkillers .makes you wonder is it ever end,is seems like i can,t do anything without pain .and the funny thing is doctors and surgeons said out of pain six weeks why do they say this when they don't really know .i went back to have an e-ray and then to see my surgeon .only to be told its fine but its going to take time and very small steps .i live on my own so as soon as i left hospital that was it and get on with it ,no help marvellous,happy days all the best Nigel

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New Member

Date Joined Mar 2014
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 3/25/2014 8:54 AM (GMT -6)   
my name is Nigel Rawdon Forster i had open heart surgery in April 2011 the wires broke .My doctor did not pick up on this even when I told him that my sternum had come undone .14 month later I went for a x-ray that pick up that something was not right!!! In June of 2013 I had plates put in holding the sternum together .three plates 20 screws and a lot of pain .I was told I would be out of pain in six weeks ,how do they know this when they have not had this operation done to them,when after 8 mouth have gone by still in a lot of pain .To be told by the surgeon that it will be little steps before it gets better.Then why was I not told this in the first place .I'm on a lot of painkillers ,and get very tired,and feel my life will never be the same I've been a carpenter all my life I think I,ll never do this again as the pain is to much well there you have it .the end
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