Posted by Heart Hugger on May 15, 2015 1:12:00 PM
Are you experiencing poststernotomy pain? Study results show that pain after sternotomy is more than just nerve damage.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can include sternal pain, involving the muscles, skeletal components of the head and neck, the trunk and other upper extremities. It doesn't make sense that simply cutting a nerve in the area of the sternum is causing all of these symptoms.
Almost a third of patients deal with persistent pain after sternotomy. This pain is often in areas unrelated to the surgical incision in the chest area (like the neck, shoulders, arms and back).
Dr. Van Leersum decided to conduct physical examinations of patients who had undergone procedures related to open heart surgery. She examined 277 patients, investigating the muscles in every inch of the body. In her study, she uncovered that:
- A third of patients reported sternal pain.
- Most of the pain was located in their upper extremities.
- A third of those with pain in their chest also reported pain in their heads, necks, shoulders and some said they had pain in their arms as well.
- Dr. Van Leersum stated that numbness in the chest wall was not directly related to a painful sternum.
- Intercostal nerve damage is associated with pain in the chest, but not the upper extremity pain.
- Dr. Van Leersum concluded that this pain was not related to specific trigger points, but instead is a form of referred pain.
She believes that chronic conditions of patients' necks or backs are triggered during the surgery, and the inflammatory process begins.
- Further study should be conducted.
- Clinicians should take care to examine poststernotomy patients for all post-surgical pain, keeping in mind that it probably isn't just nerve damage involved.
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