How Long Does it Take for the Sternum to Heal

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hriday

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I had aortic valve replacement surgery performed on June 5, 2012. I am 67 years of age. What is a reasonable time (weeks ?) and how long should it take for the sternum to heal? Getting impatient!!
 

TheGymGuy

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12 weeks or so, though, it differs for most. 16 weeks you are not careful and 6 month or longer of you keep on re-injuring it. Blanket statement? Yes. But this is what the impatient me was told, and it actually it was pretty spot on.
 

epstns

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Don't forget that "healing" is a relative term. It also depends upon what you want to do. Do you want to be a power lifter like gymguy? I'd wait longer. Are you just wanting to be able to drive a car? Most docs say about 5 to 6 weeks.

I had my valve surgery at age 63. I was able to drive a car at 5 weeks, but I waited nearly a year to get back to doing push-ups, and even now at almost 17 months, I'm not back to the muscular strength level I was before. It takes time for some of us.
 

Mentu

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My surgery was performed at Oklahoma Heart Institu
Healing milestones

Healing milestones

Impatience is not your friend. Recovery starts out rapidly and slows over time but it continues not for weeks but for several years after surgery. Consider that you went from having a terminal condition to now being impatient with healing; pretty fine, no?

1. It takes about 3 weeks for the incisions to heal both those inside and outside. During this time one should be very gentle with one's self to allow for healing. Walking, resting and eating a good diet all help. You should be past that now.

2. By about 6 to 8 weeks, one should be able to return to a "lighter" version of a normal schedule. The sternum is healing and must not be traumatized by upper body activity. If an exercise hurts, you are doing damage to yourself and can prolong the healing process and even prevent the sternum from healing properly.

3. The sternum should be knit back together by about 12 weeks at which point one can begin doing some upper body exercise. You can then start building back in to a normal exercise routine.

4. After the first three months, the heart continues to heal or, if you prefer, "restructure" itself. Severe valve disease damages the heart. How much damage is specific to the individual but it happens to us all. Over time, some or all of that damage can be repaired as the heart accommodates itself to the new valve. Like many people, the walls of my left ventricle thickened and stiffened before surgery as my heart tried to compensate for the narrowing of the valve. This causes diastolic dysfunction in which the left ventricle can not relax completely and accept a full charge of fresh blood. This can leave one somewhat less able to exercise vigorously. As I approach my 3rd anniversary, however, I just had a new echo cardiogram that indicates the thickness of my left ventricle has almost returned to normal and my cardiologist assures me that this process is likely to continue for some time. Day to day, I am able to exercise more vigorously as a result of this continued healing.

I hope this helps. Recovery is a long term ongoing process. 3 weeks, 8 weeks, and 12 weeks are just the initial milestones. Your recovery will last longer which is a quite wonderful thing.

Larry
 
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Greg a

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Gotta agree with Tom on this and tell you DON'T RUSH IT if only I had not been so anxious to leave the hospital that today my life may be different and maybe I would still have my sternum ....probably not but maybe
 

DanielB

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Due to some sternum pain that has since been atributed to sternum wires hitting nerves, I had a CT scan of my sternum at (20) weeks and it showed the upper 2/3 of my sternum completely fused and the lower 2/3 as still having some tissue in the middle, meaning it was still in process of healing. As those above have said, it takes time and healing is an individual thing. I try to not overdue it and listen to what my body tells me as I slowly add things back into my activities -- I will be at nine months post-op next week and still feel like I am healing.
 

offwego

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Healing was about 3 to 4 months, still have a twinge here or there but it's fine at 7 months...Cleared to drive within two weeks. Mostly they are concerned with pain medications and driving rather than anything else.
 

Tell-Tale Heart

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My surgery was 5/25/12. I was cleared to drive by my surgeon at my two-week check (actually 3 weeks post-op). After surgery, I went home with instructions not to lift any more than 5 lbs., increased to 15 lbs. at three weeks and "as comfortable" after five weeks. I'm more active now than before surgery.
One concern - I recently found I can sleep on my stomache without pain.. I wake very stiff but it goes away once I start moving about. Should I be doing this at eight weeks post-op?
 

Mobi

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I am six weeks post AVR today, 66 years old, and my recovery had been quite rapid. For several weeks now have been walking up to an hour a day at brisk pace, and once I am up and about there is little or no pain, although I do feel it coming back in the late evening.

My big problem is at night. Whenever I try to sleep on my side I wake up in considerable pain - so much that I am reluctant to move as I know it will get even worse. When I lie on my back, the pain subsides, and then I try to sleep on my side again as I cannot go to sleep on my back.

Within an hour or so I wake in much pain. It maybe my imagination but the nights definitely seem to be getting worse and worse. My partner is so concerned that she wants me to go back to the hospital and see a doctor, even though my next appointment is not until the end of August.

Apart from the night pains, and high blood pressure, (which is slowly reducing), my recovery seems to be pretty normal, so I wondered how 'normal' are these pains at night? Does anyone else have similar experiences and should I just grin and bear it for a while?
 

tom in MO

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Don't ever grin and bear it, ask your suregeon, that's what you pay them for. :) I had similiar pain, it was a good 4 weeks before I could sleep and only wake up 3 times a night due to discomfort. At about 6 weeks, I was sleeping good. I had "considerable pain" at 6 weeks, I'd have called my surgeon.
 

flanaganspoint

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2 1/2 mpnth post op. Still slight pain on a good sneeze, and like Mobi above, sleeping can be a bitch. Wake up tp use the facilities like most guys and I am a hurting puppy, both in my sternum and muscles all over.
 

Boston Tiger

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I took me a good year and a half for all my post-surgery twinges to go away. The instances spread apart further over time, but I really haven't noticed anything other than the weird weather related broken bone ache for at least six months now. And my two year valversery was back in early June.
 

dcc617

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I had my surgery on 2/9/12 and it couldn't have gone better. My partner (an RN) took 7 weeks of Family leave to care for me. Looking back, it was overkill. I only needed help for the first 2 weeks after. Most of the issue was getting out of the recliner. I haven't noticed any pain in 3 months. I was told that weight restrictions are removed by month 9. About 1.5 months ago, I carried two 35lb tubs of kitty litter and felt it. When I told the rehab nurse (and my partner) I was promptly chastised. (read - yelled at) Take things easy.
 

normofthenorth

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I think I was told only 8 weeks for general tissue healing and bone healing (including the sternum), and I think I felt like I kept to that schedule. Getting my heart to remodel and get back to its new normal (virtually = its old normal) took WAY longer, of course, and a few months of Cardio Rehab, too. I went downhill skiing in Whistler for a week at around 8 weeks post-op, and the main concerns I heard from my Docs was from my Cardiologist, who thought I was nuts to ski while taking Warfarin. But not because my sternum wasn't healed. The details and exact timing are on my "Norm's Story. . ." thread.
 

hriday

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Many thanks for sharing your personal experience of the post-surgery recovery process. It was certainly very helpful!

My surgery was on June 5, 2012. I am on my 9th week of the recovery process. I have no sternum pain, at least not when I sneeze or cough. However, I lack the OOMPH. Any idea when one gets all the vitality back? I am returning to work (no physical work involved) on August 29th. Hope to get fully energized by then! Thank you.
 

epstns

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I couldn't point to a specific time when the "oomph" was back, but I can say that mine is making its way back gradually. I'm now 17 months post-op, and I can jog about as fast and far now as I could do about 18 months prior to surgery (when my valve was not so bad). I think in some ways I am now in better shape than before, while maybe in some others I've not gotten my full strength back yet.
 
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