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Had heart bypasses done. Getting tingling fingers and stabbing pain in arm. Is this normal after surgery?

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Cardiac Surgeon
Practicing since : 1989
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My partner had 5 heart bypasses and a hole in his heart repaired 3 weeks ago, he did absolutely fantastic and came home on day 6, completely mobile and well. Now he seems to be getting worse by the day, especially at night. They took an artery from his left arm and he has totally bad tingling in his fingers and very sharp stabbing pains all up his arm from his wrist to the top of his shoulder and down his neck. This is really getting him down as the pain is excruciating and pain killers just don't help. He is having tramadol and paracetamol and just this morning I tried him on 500mg ibuprofen . Have you any ideas and is this usual after surgery? He is used to being very active and was only ill for about 2 months before his came on very quickly, and he is only 47 which we are told is quite young for this operation!! His Dad did have surgery at his age but unfortunately died 6 years later, so they have said his heart decease was heiredatry rather than lifestyle. Hope you can help, thank you so much.
Posted Fri, 16 Nov 2012 in Valvular Heart Disease
Answered by Dr. F. Sadruddin Shariff 11 hours later

Thanks for the query.

1. I presume that your partner had 5 grafts and closure of Ventricular Septal Defect at the same time and that they have used the Radial Artery from his left Hand.

2. In such cases, the origin of his present pain could be one of the three sources:
a) If the Palmar Arch is not complete, i.e., the blood supply to the hand is not compensated by the other artery (Ulnar Artery) than there may be a compromised blood supply to the hand leading to pain. This can be detected by an arterial doppler study of the upper Limb.
b) If there is concommitant cervical spondylosis. This can be detected by a simple X-ray of the neck. If present then course of cervical physiotherapy will be sufficient.
c) A follow up with the surgeon who did the surgery or a cardiologist may be required to reassess the success of the Surgery.

I suggest you/him to discuss about the aforementioned possibilities with his operating surgeon.

Hope this information suffices. If you have any doubts/concerns, please write back.

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Follow-up: Had heart bypasses done. Getting tingling fingers and stabbing pain in arm. Is this normal after surgery? 3 hours later
Thank you for your reply. We have an appointment with his cardiologist on Friday so hopefuly I will be able to let you know from there. I was told yesterday that pain killers would not help however I am giving him tramadol e and ibuprofen since yesterday instead of tramadole and paracetamol and this seems to be helping a little. Is this ok.
Thank you
Answered by Dr. F. Sadruddin Shariff 33 hours later

I am glad that the Tramadol and Ibuprofen combination is helping him. You may continue it.

Keep me posted on the progress.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Had heart bypasses done. Getting tingling fingers and stabbing pain in arm. Is this normal after surgery? 3 days later
My partners left arm where they took one of the arteries is giving him lots of pain. Infact he is in absolute agony his little finger and the next one are completely numb and his wrist and all the way up his arm to his elbow is so painful he cannot sleep at all. The pain is worse every day and even the tramadole and ibreprofen and not helping anymore. Can you suggest anything that might help. Is this normal with this type of surgery. Do I need to speak to the hospital? Thank you.
Answered by Dr. F. Sadruddin Shariff 22 hours later
Hi again,

I had suggested an Arterial Doppler Study of the left Upper limb in my earlier reply, kindly get it done if it is normal then there is nothing to worry.

Please do not take too many analgesics and over too many days, without coming to some conclusion regarding the origin of pain.

I am sure there is nothing much wrong, just get the Doppler done and it will definitely reassure you if everything is fine.


Dr Sadruddin Shariff XXXXXXX Consultant
Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery
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