ZocdocAnswersHow common is it for an ASD repair surgery patient to have nerve damage in the chest?

Question

How common is it for an ASD repair surgery patient to have nerve damage in the chest?

I had open heart surgery in 1991 for an ASD and my surgeon since I am female made scar to under my breasts instead of down the middle. Ever since then I can only feel a delayed sense of pain. I have no normal sense of touch or pressure. I do occasionally get what one cardiologist deemed phantom chest pain (a sharp needle like pain that lasts from 3seconds up to 15 mins in which it gets worse while breathing but holding my breathe doesn't help either).

Answer

With any surgical procedure, nerve endings which are found in throughout the skin and underlying muscle must be cut when the incision is made. Therefore, it is relatively common to have some residual numbness, tingling, or nerve pain in the area of the incision. Usually this pain is minimal and localized just to the area of the incision, and the pain usually improves slowly over time. However, occasionally the damage is permanent and the nerve endings never totally regenerate. Since you had your procedure a very long time ago (in 1991), I suspect that the symptoms you have now are symptoms that will not get any better. The usual recommendation, if the main symptoms is just diminished sensation is simply to keep an eye on things and not doe anything in terms of medications. However, if you are having significant burning pain (or increasing episodes of the "phantom pain" twinges you described), then this would definitely be something to talk with your doctor about, as there are medications that can be take for nerve related pain. I would start by talking to your cardiologist or your primary care doctor about this issue to see if they might have any additional or more specific recommendations.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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