Heart surgery and shoulder problem connection

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Paleowoman

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I have at last got an answer as to the continuing pain with my left shoulder...and pain and cracking noise in my sternum. Although an MRI showed that the supraspinatus tendon in my shoulder has a small tear which showed on previous MRI of 18 months ago, the recent MRI was of my sternum too. This showed that I have an effusion and inflammatory changes in the left sternoclavicular joint. Rheumatologist said problems in that joint do not usually happen until a person is very old (80’s 90’s) with arthritis but they can show up in ‘younger’ people when there has been an injury to the chest or sternum - and a sternotomy is definitely an injury even if it is a controlled injury, plus, the rheumatologist said, the way the sternum is pulled apart is worse than a accidental injury. Pain from the sternoclavicular joint can radiate to the shoulder and arm. I don’t have any pain problem in the right shoulder even though that has a small tendon tear too, but the sternoclavicular joint on the right in fine.
 

Seaton

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Sounds really discomforting and painful, Anne. Did they say whether things in the left shoulder and sternum could eventually settle down or is the pain considered permanent?

I’ve read various things about ongoing shoulder issues post open heart surgery, but imagined most would normalise over time with general use and exercise. Yours sounds pretty persistent all these years later.

Glad all good on the right shoulder.
 

Paleowoman

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Hi Seaton - I think the problem with the sternoclavicular joint is permanent, or semi-permanent, the consensus is that osteoarthritis is in that joint due to the sternotomy ‘injury', normally OA doesn't affect that joint until extreme old age. The shoulder problem is probably mostly due to the sternoclavicular joint problem - the joint connects the sternum to the clavicle which is connected to the shoulder - but everyone got distracted thinking it was shoulder impingement syndrome due to the slightly torn tendon and bursitis so I had a lot of physio which didn’t help and made things worse as most of the exercises involved stretching of the chest which stretches the sternum which made the pain there worse. I am now steering clear of physiotherapists ! There’s no physio exercises for the sternoclavicular joint anyway. Options are anti-inflmmatories, steroid injections and tens machine. No heavy carrying which means I have to be careful with weight lifting.
 

Seaton

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I suppose it’s good to know the details so you don’t do even more damage. Even so, sorry to hear things were made worse! 😳

I’ve had shoulder problems in the past so I know how painful and debilitating such issues can be. I think mine occurred from swimming the same strokes repetitively (and probably incorrectly from a posture point of view) too often. At least, that’s what I was told. But all good now (he says, touching wood!).
 

carolinemc

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May 31, 2010
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kansas city, mo
I have at last got an answer as to the continuing pain with my left shoulder...and pain and cracking noise in my sternum. Although an MRI showed that the supraspinatus tendon in my shoulder has a small tear which showed on previous MRI of 18 months ago, the recent MRI was of my sternum too. This showed that I have an effusion and inflammatory changes in the left sternoclavicular joint. Rheumatologist said problems in that joint do not usually happen until a person is very old (80’s 90’s) with arthritis but they can show up in ‘younger’ people when there has been an injury to the chest or sternum - and a sternotomy is definitely an injury even if it is a controlled injury, plus, the rheumatologist said, the way the sternum is pulled apart is worse than a accidental injury. Pain from the sternoclavicular joint can radiate to the shoulder and arm. I don’t have any pain problem in the right shoulder even though that has a small tendon tear too, but the sternoclavicular joint on the right in fine.
Thank goodness you have an educated Rheumatologist who knows that what is usually an older person problem can happen to younger people. That is what some still think of on RA. (used to be called Rheumatism). My mother had it diagnosed in her late twenties. You are in good hand there. So glad that he/she is great doctor for you. Hugs for today.
 

charlottekaye

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Apr 4, 2012
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Location
georgia
I've gone through 2 heart surgeries. Both times, my shoulder was injured. 1st time, the left shoulder. I dealt with pain for a
15 years. Exercise helped but it was slow and agonizing. I was told to keep my shoulder moving because I would develop a frozen shoulder if I didn't. Some doctor along the way mentioned the term "nerve impingement." He suggested that the surgery might have narrowed the space in my shoulder through which nerves and arteries or blood vessels run. After my second heart surgery, they pulled the wires out of my left shoulder and I felt the wires go across the injured area, after that, my left shoulder was cured, albeit by accident. My theory is the wires opened up more space for my nerves, etc. But!! That 2nd surgery damaged my Right shoulder. I will post info on how that was resolved later. Question: can heart surgeons find a way to brace the shoulders during OHS to avoid these agonizing shoulder injuries?
 

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