Post-stent chest pain

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters 

A friend’s daughter (who happens to be a cardiac nurse) phoned to check on me a few days after I was discharged from the hospital following my heart attack. I felt so relieved to hear her voice because  something was really starting to worry me:  I was still having chest pain.

Hadn’t the blocked coronary artery that had caused my “widow maker” heart attack just recently been magically unblocked? Wasn’t that newly revascularized artery now propped wide open with a shiny metal stent? Shouldn’t I be feeling better?

And that’s when I heard the words “stretch pain”  for the first time.    .       . 

She explained to me exactly what I would later learn more about from cardiac researchers in Germany: moststretch pain” symptoms are due to the dilation and stretching of a coronary artery that’s caused when a coronary stent is being implanted inside that artery.(1)  And for the majority of heart patients, she added, stretch pain is not a danger sign.

But if you’re like me, you may still be concerned, after your stent has been newly implanted, to find that the chest pain that sent you to the hospital in the first place is still happening.

At the time, I could find no information about chest pain AFTER a stent procedure in any of the patient education material I was given before I was discharged from the CCU (the Intensive Care Unit for heart patients).

But now I was learning that this new chest pain might be BECAUSE of a stent procedure.

The German researchers agreed that post-stent chest pain is likely not a reason for us to panic. But they did acknowledge:

“This is a common problem. Although the development of chest pain after coronary interventions may be benign, it is disturbing to patients, relatives and hospital staff.”

Disturbing? No kidding. . . 

New chest pain is very disturbing to a person who has just survived a heart attack.

In the German study, researchers found that stretch pain can be experienced after different types of cardiac interventions:

  • about 40 per cent of the patients they studied developed chest pain after having a coronary stent implanted (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, or PCI)
  • 12 per cent developed chest pain after balloon angioplasty
  • 9 per cent developed chest pain after diagnostic angiography

As cardiologist Dr. Allen Jeremias explained in his book, Your Personal Guide to Angioplasty:

“The air pressure in your fully inflated car tires is about 2 atmospheres. By comparison, the high pressure used to inflate a balloon inside a coronary artery during angioplasty is between 10-20 atmospheres.”

Researchers suggest that chest pain in recently stented patients can be associated with continuous stretching of the treated coronary artery during an invasive procedure, which they described like this in the journal, Circulation:(2)

“Non-ischemic chest pain develops in almost half of all patients undergoing stent implantation, and seems to be related to blood vessel over-expansion caused by the stent inside the diseased vessel.”

U.K. sources add that it’s common to experience this new chest discomfort in the first few days and weeks following a stent procedure.

“This is because your artery has suffered some trauma and bruising from the stent being fitted. You can have episodes of pain or discomfort as the stent settles into place. This pain is usually felt quite locally in the chest, and is often described as sharp or stabbing. This type of pain can often be relieved by taking acetaminophen (Tylenol).”

Symptoms have been generally described by patients as mild or moderate, and also “unlike the pain of angina” that they had experienced before they came into the hospital for treatment. Three-quarters of patients with this pain described it as “continuous, squeezing pain located deep in the chest.” 

What if stretch pain continues or gets worse?

Stretch pain is typically a short-term issue while we are recuperating.  But sometimes, it is not just short-term.

The Journal of the American Heart Association reported that about one third of heart attack patients studied were still reporting occasional chest pain at six weeks or longer.(3)  These symptoms happened infrequently – about 80 per cent experienced symptoms once a month on average, but of the remaining 20 per cent, chest pain was happening weekly or even daily.

This kind of chest pain may not be just your average stretch pain.

If chest pain persists or worsens over weeks, it may indicate another cardiac issue that must be checked out. In a 2018 U.K. study, researchers turned the cardiology world on its ear by suggesting that stents may not address chest pain as we have always believed – especially for patients who have not had a heart attack.(4)  Coronary artery disease (CAD) typically affects many blood vessels, and so stenting only the largest blockage may not make much difference in a patient’s symptoms. As the New York Times described the findings of this study:

A few arteries might be blocked today, and then reopened with stents. But tomorrow a blockage might arise in another artery, and cause a heart attack.”

Always consult your own physician for ongoing or new chest pain, or any distressing symptoms that simply do not feel right to you.  See also: ISCHEMIA Study: That Blockage Isn’t A Time Bomb In Your Chest (about the controversial 2019 research that found stents or bypass surgery are no more effective – except during a heart attack – than providing optimal medical therapy; as I noted at the time, however, fewer than 1/4 of the ISCHEMIA study participants were women).

But meanwhile, my own question on stretch pain is still this: 

“If stretch pain caused by having a stent implanted is as common as cardiac researchers seem to suggest, why aren’t heart patients like me warned about this before hospital discharge so we don’t need to panic during recovery?”

1.  Chao-Chien Chang et al. “Chest pain after percutaneous coronary intervention in patients with stable angina”. Clin Interv Aging. 2016; 11: 1123–1128.
2. Jeremias, A. et al. “Nonischemic Chest Pain Induced by Coronary Interventions: A Prospective Study Comparing Coronary Angioplasty and Stent Implantation”. Circulation. December 1998: 2656–265.
3. Fanaroff, A. et al. “Management of Persistent Angina After Myocardial Infarction Treated With Percutaneous Coronary Intervention: Insights From the TRANSLATE‐ACS Study”;  Journal of the American Heart Asssociation.
4. Rasha Al-Lamee et al. “Percutaneous Coronary Intervention in Stable Angina (ORBITA): a Double-Blind, Randomised Controlled Trial”. The Lancet, Volume 391, ISSUE 10115, P31-40, January 06, 2018.

NOTE FROM CAROLYN:  In my book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), I wrote much more about chest pain and other (common and uncommon) cardiac symptoms. You can ask for this book at your local library or favourite bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from Johns Hopkins University Press. Use their code HTWN to save 20% off the list price when you order.


Q:  Have you ever experienced stretch pain after a cardiac procedure?


Please do not leave a comment here asking me about your current symptoms. I  am not a physician and cannot offer you medical advice. Always see a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing distressing symptoms.

57 thoughts on “Post-stent chest pain

  1. Had 2 stents put in 5 weeks ago. Whenever I play tennis, I am still getting chest pains 30 min into the game. I was wondering if there is another blockage.

    It’s frustrating as I am 44 yo and was looking forward to an active lifestyle post op.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jerone – I’m not a physician, of course, but I can tell you that you’re in very early days yet when such chest pain could still be the result of those two stents. What you’re describing is classic angina pain (e.g. symptoms typically come on with exertion, go away with rest). If this continues or gets worse, see your doctor!

      PS: I met a heart attack survivor (with two stents) while at Mayo Clinic who was also an elite-level tennis player. She would take a dose of her nitroglycerin (a vasodilator that you likely received a prescription for in the hospital) before her daily tennis games, and also stop halfway through, sit down, take another dose, wait five minutes, and then resume her match. She’d done that for years.


  2. My doctor put a stent in my Widowmaker artery and now he said he’s squished a vein underneath it but he said not to worry but it should have taken 25 to 30 minutes to do it, I was on the table for 2 and 1/2 hours and now my chest bone hurts. I don’t like it and I’m going to talk to him about it, he said it’s nothing to worry about but I have Panic anxiety attacks and I want to know what he did wrong, please somebody could you answer me on that

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Joseph – I’m not a physician, so cannot comment specifically on what happened or didn’t happen during your stent procedure. You’re wise to speak directly to your physician about this – always a smart idea to go straight to the best person to answer your questions. It’s hard not to feel anxious when you don’t know what the cause of your chest pain is, but that same anxiety can actually cause chest pain in itself.

      Make an appointment soon to chat with your doctor.

      Take care, stay safe…


  3. My wife is 3 weeks post stents and over the past 2 days has complained that it feels like someone is standing on her chest. She says the current pain is nowhere near the pain 3+ weeks ago when she was diagnosed as having a heart attack and subsequently stents inserted. Could her complaint be related to this “stretch pain”?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Todd – your wife is in early days still, when some stretch pain from the stent procedure itself may still be experienced. I’m not a physician, so cannot comment on your wife’s experience specifically, but I can tell you that, as this article suggests, researchers have found that “one third of heart attack patients studied were still reporting occasional chest pain at six weeks or longer.”

      If her symptoms are occasional and don’t interfere with activities of daily life, they may be more likely to be stretch pain. However, if her symptoms continue or worsen over time, she should see her doctor to rule out two possibilities, just in case: 1. a blockage inside the stent, or 2. a new blockage in a different coronary artery.

      Even if she doesn’t go in to see her doctor in person, he/she should be aware that she’s experiencing these post-stent symptoms (if only so docs can mention this very common symptom to future patients so they won’t be so scared if/when they happen!)

      Also (VERY VERY IMPORTANT!) she MUST faithfully take the anti-platelet medication that was prescribed for her in the hospital (may be called Plavix, Brilinta, Effient) every day. This is a drug that is often prescribed for up to one year to help prevent blood platelets from forming another clot inside the stent.

      Good luck to her (and to you!)


  4. My name is Ben, and currently keeping a good eye on my Mum after she had 2 stents following unstable angina like symptoms. (she went in for an angiogram where they found severe stenosis on one of her smaller arteries – Excuse me, I don’t know the full details…)

    Obviously with COVID it’s been anxious time. And a surprise to us all that she came out with 2 stents. It’s been 4 days since her procedure and is generally fine! We went for our first walk today which was nice. My Mum doesn’t like to bother people and has only mentioned ‘tenderness’ when asked about her chest. Saying that, I helped her get tucked into bed and she braced & winced momentarily, but soon settled down for her afternoon nap! I heard another groan and checked her, she was awake and rotating her wrist where they went in, so it seems she’s also having some discomfort in her arm too. Obviously it’s very early, and like I say she’s doing very well generally. I’m just very anxious as it was such a surprise! The Cardiologist gave her the option of treating with meds or stents, and she went with the latter. I do trust this will clear up. Thank you for all for sharing your valuable stories! I will keep a good eye on her. Any advice much appreciated 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ben – first of all, you are a good son to be carefully keeping an eye on your Mum! (Other sons, take note!) She is in very early days yet, so no wonder her wrist is still uncomfortable. Make sure to remind her not to lift anything heavy with that hand to give that area time to heal up nicely. If she has any severe pain or bleeding – or anything that doesn’t feel right – she should call her doctor.

      I remember very clearly in the first week back at home feeling so shocked that simply taking a shower or walking to the corner with my son, also named Ben (another good son!) would completely flatten me. I’d have to lie down for 20 minutes to recuperate from doing almost anything! That’s just perfectly normal. The body has gone through an invasive cardiac procedure (and a considerable psychological shock) and needs time to rest up and recover.

      A very good resource that helped me a lot in the early days was cardiac psychologist Dr. Wayne Sotile. I’ve written lots about his work, including this 4-part series on the four stages of heart disease recovery, starting with Stage 1: “Surviving The Crisis”, then Stage 2: “Creating A Coping Strategy”, then Stage 3: “The Homecoming” (where your Mum is now) and finally Stage 4: “Learning To Live With Heart Disease”. The whole series starts here.

      My only other advice is to encourage your Mum to keep up with those walks, just nice and easy at the beginning and then, assuming she has no mobility issues, adding a block or two gradually each week until she’s ready for a brisk walk on her own, and ALSO to see that she takes her meds faithfully each day, particularly her anti-platelet medication (e.g. names like Plavix, Effient, or Brilinta) that will help prevent a new blockage forming inside that new metal stent. This is VERY important!

      Good luck to her, and to you!


      1. Ben, I had to smile at this thread, not because of your mother’s experience and suffering but the huge coincidence.

        Three weeks ago on May 25th I woke at 0530 with severe chest pain and in a literal real sweat. I knew immediately what it was and called an ambulance, within 90 minutes I was in the operating theatre or cath lab as they call it, and I received 4 stents.

        I immediately felt better and was back home in under 3 days. I’ve had no discomfort in my wrist but I get the occasional odd sensation in the heart area but thankfully no pain or breathlessness.

        I echo the comments regarding the meds. By nature I’m suspicious of pharma but I recognise that my lifestyle has helped me to get to this point and I’ll take any assistance I can to reverse the damage. I’m on 4 different thinning and anti-clotting in addition to cholesterol reducing meds.

        I thank God for the UK’s NHS service that saved my life and none of it cost me a single penny – apart from paying taxes for 44 years. I’m sure your mum will be fine as long as she does as she’s told but you may have to bully her a little to be honest about when things hurt or don’t feel right. The older generations don’t like to make a fuss.

        But the thing that made me smile? The person whose done the most for me, cared for me and run around for me these last few weeks is my dear 25 year old son, BEN. 😃 for whom I regularly thank the Lord.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hello David and thanks so much for weighing in here in response to Ben’s story about his Mum. I hope you’re feeling much better day by day.

          I too am lucky to enjoy the benefits of universal healthcare (here in Canada – also known to Americans as “commie pinko land of socialized medicine”) where my trips to Emergency, all diagnostic tests, world-class cardiac procedures, hospital stay plus follow-up cardiology consultations for life are provided at no charge to me (apart from paying taxes, which I’m happy to do).

          P.S: Bens are THE BEST sons! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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  6. My 45-year-old husband had a stent placed 6 mos ago in has LAD (never had a heart attack though).

    He constantly has twinges and feels like he got punched in the chest. They went back in to take a look 3 months later and it was all fine–looked great and no scar tissue. They told him it was anxiety/all in his head. It’s been 3 more months and he still feels awful. Has anyone had stretch pain THIS long??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Nancy – I’m not a physician so cannot comment specifically on your husband’s unfortunate symptoms, but I can tell you generally that a number of studies on persistent longterm chest pain (angina) suggest that your husband is not alone. The European Heart Journal for example published a study last year that found potential reasons for this post-cath lab chest pain may include:

      – recurrent ischemic lesion due to stent thrombosis
      – in-stent re-stenosis
      – residual diffuse disease
      – myocardial bridging
      – coronary microvascular (small vessel) dysfunction due to microvascular spasm or impaired microvascular dilation

      Researchers added:

      “The principal treatment goal for these patients is control of angina symptoms. Four classes of medications are generally approved for the treatment of angina: beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, long-lasting nitrates (Nitroglycerin) and ranolazine”.

      I’d suggest that your husband immediately start a Symptom Journal (date, time of day, specific description of the symptom, duration, what helped/didn’t help, what he was doing/feeling/eating in the 1-2 hours leading up to the onset of symptoms). Tracking this may reveal a pattern that will be helpful to his physician in solving the mystery. My guess is that six months is likely far too long to be simply ‘stretch pain’ at this point.


  7. Fascinating — I did continue to have chest pain, sometimes with slightly elevated Troponin levels. It turns out that I had an extremely rare tumor on my adrenal gland called a pheochromocytoma.

    That has now been removed, but I have an occasional issue with something. I call it angina but I have no symptoms like my previous angina. (My cardiologist is a listening sort of physician so he is exploring this with me.) I like the idea of stretch pain — it seems to describe the sensation.

    How long after an MI with stent placement should one experience this? (I will ask my cardiologist.) Having a stress test Wednesday–just to follow up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Bonita – what a rare experience you have had! One of my blog readers was actually misdiagnosed with a heart condition (for years!) around the same time she was finally diagnosed with a pheochromocytoma on her adrenal gland as you were. Ultimately, her debilitating “coronary spasm” symptoms were re-diagnosed as a thyroid condition. You might want to check out her story.

      PS How lovely that your cardiologist is a “listening sort of physician”. That’s about the nicest compliment any patient could offer…

      Most of the studies I found suggested that “stretch pain” tends to appear about 24 hours post-procedure, with lots of variation depending on the patient and the procedure.

      Good luck on Wednesday!


  8. Hi Carolyn,
    I started having that sensation about two weeks post AMI. I went through all the paper work that I was given and found nothing regarding it. I didn’t want the cardiologist to think I was a whiner, so I waited until my 30 day appointment. He said it was just my body adjusting to the stent.
    He had me do an echo just too be safe.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Carolyn, the good thing is everything was fine.

        But my cardiologist told me not to wait because it could have gone the other way. They are very good at seeing you if you have a problem. I had a pulling pain in my groin where they had the port. I called them and they sent me in for an ultrasound right away. They found it to be scar tissue. Rehab pulled it right out.


  9. I am almost crying as I read all this. So much old anxiety welling up that has been squelched for the 2 years plus since I had one stent placed in my LAD.

    I was fit as a fiddle, good diet, plenty of exercise, etc etc (I had climbed a tree, topping it with a chainsaw to let light into a garden on the afternoon of my heart attack, this after moving 1 1/2 tons of steel onto and off of a scale that morning– not an unusual day for me).

    The issue was a torn artery that had healed itself over a period of 3 years since a super stressful event, that in the process of healing had plugged the artery. I was assured that I’d be “back to normal” shortly, but 2 years later I still have chest pain when I get tired, or if I lie on my left side, or if it’s just late in the day and I haven’t had a nap.

    I’ve complained all along that it feels like the stent is poking me. Not once has anyone suggested “stretch pain”. What I did hear during the angiogram was that because the source of tubing they were using was Puerto Rico (this was after the hurricane), they were out of “the right size” so I believe they used the next larger size. It DID hurt, and that is the same pain I still get.

    I am really really tired of being told I’m fine when my body tells me otherwise. I was supposed to get a repeat ECG and whatnot last October, and am still waiting… finally the appointment for the stress test is in April.

    In the meantime I have no stamina, and suffer enough tension, anxiety, and chest pain to keep me awake at night. I look healthy, especially for my age (72), so no one believes my story. I live alone and carry on my rural lifestyle happily, but sometimes I wish I had some visible signs of the fragility I feel, so the docs would pay more attention.

    Thank you for this article, it does make sense to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First of all, I’m so sorry to read about what you’ve been through for two years. No wonder you were so surprised by your cardiac diagnosis (swinging a chain saw up a tree and moving steel? – that’s “fit as a fiddle” for sure). That initial procedure was the first of many puzzling developments for you (diagnosis, treatment, distressing symptoms since then, the Puerto Rico comment, needing to wait for further testing, and having symptoms dismissed all this time because you look “fine”.

      Worst of these is not being believed, which can fill patients with a sense of helplessness and frustration. I think it might be time to consider a second opinion to seek help for symptoms that would send most people straight to the ER. Starting with a fresh slate is the right of every patient. Good luck to you, Rosalind.


    2. Hello Rosalind, I had a STEMI and stent 17 days ago, and have exactly your symptoms. Pain/stiffness in my chest if I lay on the left hand side, often in the evening and at night, and just enough to keep me awake. Last week I went back to the hospital and they kept me in overnight, and did several ECGs and troponin levels, which were still elevated, but sent home with no specific advice or findings, except “you are ok, but come back if it gets worse” which was not a lot of help.

      Not once was the subject of stretch pain mentioned, and to read this article, and other patient anecdotes has been extremely comforting.

      Tonight I have chest discomfort at about 1/10 and GT spray hasn’t helped, so am about to try a paracetamol.
      Will report back tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Neil – I’m glad you happened to find my site, and also that you found this new information comforting. Simply knowing that you are not alone in itself is a comfort. (What amazes me however is that we are not warned about this very common response BEFORE being discharged from the hospital, so we don’t start to panic over every twinge!)

        Keep in mind that research findings suggest that “one third of heart attack patients studied were still reporting occasional chest pain at six weeks or longer.” You’re still in early days yet, but keep an eye on these symptoms. If they worsen or become far more frequent, get them checked out – but meanwhile try not to fret (which in itself can cause chest pains).

        Take care, stay safe…


  10. Wow, great post! I must have had this after my second stent, which gave me a lot more trouble than the first.

    Both stents are in the Left Anterior Descending artery (LAD). I went through cardiac rehab twice, in 2015 and 2016. The only issue I had after the first stent was pain a month later that ended up being my gall bladder (which could not be removed because the cardiologists didn’t want to stop the Brilinta — the doctors went round and round about it but eventually my gall bladder calmed down all on its own and I hope it stays that way!).

    But with the second stent I had a lot worse cardiac symptoms before going into the cath lab, and afterwards, I would be on the exercise bike or whatever machine at cardiac rehab, feel chest pain, and debate whether or not to report it as I was supposed to — because if I did, I would have to stop rehab until I was checked out by my cardiologist and cleared to continue. It was a very stop-and-start rehab the second time around. Very rough time compared to the first time. (Blood sugar was also an issue. If it was low, I couldn’t do rehab that day unless I drank their awful canned apple juice and ate some graham crackers, but sometimes that didn’t raise it enough to continue.)

    Now I’m doing fine, hardly ever feel even a twinge. It’s been a long time since I’ve needed nitro.

    So maybe it was stretch pain. But this brings me to a question I’ve wondered about. There are many sizes of stents and I’ve wondered how the interventionist determines what size is right for each blocked artery. I know I was very apprehensive during the cath when I knew they were ready to balloon the stent into place because I had heard that it could tear the artery if not done right. I wonder if any of us are walking around with the wrong size stent? That would cause stretch pain, right? Stupid question, probably . . . of course the interventionist knows what he’s doing! Or so we hope!

    Thanks for keeping us informed about these things Carolyn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Meghan – turns out your awful gall bladder surgery delay is not unusual for patients taking anti-platelet drugs like Brilinta following a stent (because of the bleeding risk during/after surgery) but current guidelines do say that most patients can stop taking it five days before surgery – it’s a judgement call by the surgeons and the cardiologists who must weigh the pros and cons. Thank goodness your gall bladder calmed down!

      Your question about stents is an interesting one. When I was at Mayo Clinic at my WomenHeart Science & Leadership training, we learned that in the very earliest days of stenting in the 1980s, none of the early stents fit any female patients, because all research had been done on (white middlle-aged) men – whose coronary arteries of course are typically larger than ours.

      Now, however, I too trust that experienced interventional cardiologists can accurately assess which stent sizes are most appropriate for each patient. The key word there is “experienced” – this is a skill that improves only with lots of practice (Harvard Med School suggests 250 procedures per year as the minimum number of stents/Percutaneous Coronary Interventions that would ensure reliable skill and confidence.

      In other words, you don’t ever want a person like Dr. Oz (a cardiac surgeon-turned-TV-shill who says he still practices one day a week – which I believe should reassure NONE of his patients…)


  11. Thanks for sharing this information. I also had two stents put in to open my “widow maker” and my doctor never mentioned stretching pains.

    I did have them for a couple of months and it was very scary and frustrating. Still now a year and a half later, I’ll feel something similar when I take a really deep breath, during a hiccups or overdo something and strain too hard.

    I hopefully assumed stent stretching and/or adjusting into the artery wall was the cause, but this information right after my HA would have relieved some of the anxiety sooner.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this, Ana. It IS scary and frustrating – especially when we have no clue why this pain is happening. And you are so right: sharing this with heart patients BEFORE they are discharged home should be standard practice and would in fact relieve/prevent anxiety about the pain.

      Some clinicians still seem to believe, however, that if you mention possible side effects in advance, patients are so suggestible that they will all believe that they have those symptoms – which in my opinion, is a pretty patronizing and insulting way to practice medicine…


  12. I’ve had 4 cardiac caths, an ablation, and a stent and have not experienced this phenomenon. However, because I have ongoing intermittent chest pain caused by Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) and maybe microvascular disease…… I am waiting for the day they come out with a good study on how we can differentiate chest pain that needs medical attention and chest pain that does not.

    The only thing worse than chest pain itself, is having a medical professional tell you “You can’t be having pain that bad, your EKG is fine.”

    I remember this happening after my first open heart surgery. I am not a screamer and I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but I remember lying in ICU post op screaming for them to call my cardiologist or give me some Verapamil because the chest pain I was having had NOTHING to do with my incision. It was like someone had taken a hot knife and plunged it directly into my heart. I finally made enough fuss they put me on a Fentanyl PCA.

    Strangely I never had that pain after my second open heart surgery…. where they removed 20 times more heart muscle than the first one.
    Maybe after the first surgery, my heart was screaming ”They didn’t do the surgery correctly…now we will have to have another one” 😱

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Jill – “How can we differentiate chest pain that needs medical attention and chest pain that does not” is the key question, right? Chest pain is always a scary sign, whether it’s caused by a massive heart attack or by a panic attack.

      Your first surgery experience sounds horrific! Every trip to the O.R. is different, every procedure is different, every effect on nerve endings or incisions or tissue damage is different, every surgeon is different.

      PS When I worked in hospice palliative care for many years, our docs used to remind us that “pain is what the patient says it is.”


  13. I’m so happy to read this. I had severe pain and discomfort after my stent. The Cardiologist briefly mentioned “stretching” but said it would go away shortly. I had pain on and off for almost 2 months.

    I joined a few FB groups and even asked the question on there, but almost everyone said they had no pain afterwards. I felt totally alone.

    I wish I had known this at the time, it would have been so helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Nancy! I hope that since that scary two month period, the severe pain eased up for good.

      No wonder you felt totally alone… Sometimes, the most comforting thing to hear, even from just one other person, is that we are NOT alone. Maybe I should have written this post years earlier!

      You might want to share a link to this article with those FB groups, just in case…


            1. NANCY! That’s exactly how I feel about YOU! – even though we have never met in person!

              When I read your story in the 2018 Heart and Stroke Foundation annual report, I almost fell off my chair!

              Our stories were freakishly identical in virtually every way (same province, age, symptoms, misdiagnosis, outcomes) EXCEPT that your heart attack happened exactly 10 years AFTER mine! What horrified me about this reality is that many physicians have told me many, many times during that decade that what happened to me “could never happen today” because of better diagnostic tools, doctors’ growing awareness of women’s heart disease, etc etc etc.

              Yet there you were! I felt horrified and angry, and I asked myself “Has NOTHING changed since 2008 if women are, like Nancy Bradley, still being misdiagnosed and sent home from Emergency?”

              You may be already aware that I’ve used this blog post about you (virtually word for word) at a number of my “Heart-Smart Women” public presentations I’ve done, including at the annual Heart and Stroke Foundation’s MLA Breakfast – dozens of elected officials attended, including our Minister of Health Adrian Dix. In every presentation I’ve done where I tell “our” stories, you could hear a pin drop as I compare your experience with mine…

              Your own story really reinforces my message (and the H&SF messages, too) that female heart patients are STILL at significantly higher risk of being under-diagnosed and (worse!) under-treated compared to our male counterparts.

              Hope you are feeling much better now as you approach your 2-year Heartiversary! Thanks so much for your kind comments. ♥


    1. And that’s the key message, isn’t it? Just a few words before hospital discharge that this experience is quite common post-stent, usually nothing serious, don’t be alarmed. So we aren’t so shocked and frightened if/when these symptoms do occur! Thanks for your comment, Susie.


      1. I think the knowledge gap not only exists in heart patients, but also with cardiologists, nurses and primary physicians as well.

        We as patients can do our part by educating them too!!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. So important to share post heart surgery issues to educate us in what we may experience while getting well.
    A year after open heart surgery, I experienced pain as well. Some of it due to scar tissue. I regularly had to do stretching exercises.
    All in good time we repair. Nevertheless we should check in with our physician.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So, so true! The human body is astonishingly good at healing (and yes, with the expert help of our physicians!)

      Take collateral arteries in the heart, for instance, which normally just hang around not doing much (like “wet pantyhose”, as I like to picture them) UNTIL the body senses blocked blood flow to the heart muscle. That’s when the collaterals suddenly come to life, and can actually restore blood flow to the affected part of the heart muscle. Docs call it “do-it-yourself bypass surgery”!

      All in good time, as you say… 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This is exactly what happened to me two months ago, two days after I was discharged from the hospital after a heart attack, and receiving three new stents in my right anterior arteries, and three days after these stents, a second angioplasty and new stent to unblock my LAD, where a stent had been placed in 1996, after I suffered a Widow Maker (complete blockage), had become 80% blocked.

    For background: Hyperlipidemia runs in my family, and I have to say that I’ve never been able to tolerate statins, so took them intermittently over 24 years, after the first heart attack – but I do tolerate Praluent, and had been taking (injecting) 300mg a month for almost a year before this second heart attack, along with 5 mg Rosuvastatin twice a week.

    I experienced “stretch pain” – a kind of pressure more than pain, in my instance – after both heart attacks (that were 24 years apart), within a day or two of the angioplasties and stent insertions.

    Both times, the cardiologists (different ones) brought me back into the cath lab, and performed angiograms to be sure I did not have a new blockage.

    Both times. there was no new blockage.

    But this last time, two months ago, my cardiologist explained to me a version of what you did, that the pain was likely from the stent procedure and trauma, and would likely go away. (If not, of course, he insisted I pay attention and take action.)

    A few weeks after this recent heart attack, I was on the treadmill, having a stress test, and felt the slightest pressure (as before), so the test was stopped. But I told my cardiologist and the second cardiologist who was attending with him, that it felt just like the slight pain I’d felt that had proven not to be a new blockage, and it had only lasted a moment.

    He said it was again likely the aftermath of the procedure (your “stretch pain”), and that he wasn’t worried at that point. He felt that time, as well as cardiac rehab, would likely help and see it go away.

    Two months later, the pain (pressure) has not returned.

    I’ve been attending cardiac rehab at the hospital three times a week for about six weeks now, and feel great. Highly recommend cardiac rehab for the support and encouragement, and camaraderie, as well as physical conditioning.

    It might be useful to add that I did have damage to my heart this second time, because I waited overnight – thinking that the fatigue and nausea and sweats were flu, given I’d had absolutely no heart damage or problems for 24 years, and led an very active life, was slim and fit and basically vegetarian, didn’t drink or smoke.

    I also didn’t know that these symptoms alone could indicate a heart attack for women, because years ago at 44 I’d had all the classic dramatic symptoms of intense chest pain, etc. – symptoms that were misdiagnosed for a few years as “anxiety” or “asthma” or “stress” and even “loving my life too much, and burning the candle at both ends.” This time I found out that post-menopausal women frequently only show signs of fatigue and nausea.

    So, thank you for writing this post. Everyone’s experience is different, and symptoms vary in their intensity and meaning, but still it is reassuring to read that my experience has occurred to others. I have complete faith in my cardiologist, but it is still good to learn others go through some of the same concerns and uncertainty, however brief, after a heart attack.

    This may be off topic a bit, but the only concerning physical ‘symptom’ I now have is one commonly caused by the medications: sudden shortness of breath. It lasts only seconds, and never at cardiac rehab – there is no connection at all to physical activity. I’ve told my cardiologist and internist. It’s totally confounding to me that an important heart med (Brilinta) causes a symptom of a heart attack. Though only for a few moments, which I guess is something. My internist said “They haven’t figured this part out yet.”

    Many thanks for your informative and confidence-inspiring blog, and for offering us a sense of community.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holy moley, Donna! You went through a bit of scary drama two months ago! I’m glad you are feeling better now, and especially glad that you’re in cardiac rehab. So important!!

      Cardiac rehab has been found to be one of the most effective ways to help save lives among heart patients (the American College of Cardiology tells us that ‘Women with coronary artery disease who complete a 12-week cardiac rehabilitation program are two-thirds less likely to die compared to those who were NOT referred to the program.”) Those stats are even better than taking statins!

      I like how your cardiologist during your stress test told you that “time, as well as cardiac rehab, would likely help and see it go away” which has proven to be correct.

      The important lesson in your story is that, no matter the cause of symptoms (whether it’s benign and predictable “stretch pain” or something actually really wrong with the heart, we must speak up and mention these symptoms if and when they appear, JUST IN CASE. By the way, I’m not a physician, but here’s a list of Brilinta side effects that you might want to read. As you know, people with stents must take anti-platelet drugs for some time to help prevent new clots forming inside the newly implanted stent, but there are alternative meds that can do this with less risk.

      It’s so horrible that you had to spend YEARS reporting classic textbook cardiac symptoms that were misdiagnosed as stress or asthma or anxiety or (oh please!) “loving my life too much, and burning the candle at both ends”.

      And I sure hope you never stop “loving your life”!


  16. To your last sentence: “If stretch pain caused by having a stent implanted is as common as cardiac researchers seem to suggest, why aren’t heart patients like me warned about this before hospital discharge so we don’t need to panic during recovery?”

    My sentiments EXACTLY!! My goodness I wish I knew this 2 years ago when I had my 2 stents. I was so worried and distressed – and so was my Cardiologist. In fact, she conferred with another senior Cardiologist and they both agreed that to be on the safe side, they should do another Angiogram (3 months later) to be sure that there were no other blockages!! No one even suggested that my discomfort could be caused due to the stretching!!

    I appreciate that they were thorough, but even seasoned Cardiologists don’t seem to know or believe this because I specifically asked if this could be due to my body adjusting to the new stents and was told NO.

    Great article as always Carolyn! Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for sharing that perspective, Kelly. You brought up such an important point: we all want our cardiologists to be thorough and to take our symptoms seriously (and we know from many, many studies that this is not always the case with female heart patients) BUT we also want our physicians to be well-informed.

      While I was writing this post, I easily found dozens of studies dating back 20+ years with the same conclusions: stretch pain is found in about 40% of stented patients. You would think that all cardiologists would know this by now?

      Interesting that you suggested to them that your symptoms could be due to your “body adjusting to the new stents” but were confidently told NO – which tells me that you must have had some gut feeling that this notion made sense to you!


  17. I experienced this about 12 hours after my stent and a widowmaker. The staff came running and did all kinds of tests. Just gave me some Paracetamol by IV and the pain subsided. Thank goodness that’s all I had!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chris – and luckily the hospital staff “came running”. Having chest pain so soon after a frightening heart attack is almost more frightening, because we’re on such high alert after that drama.


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