My Open Heart Surgery Scar

July 21, 2013

You asked for it, you got it!

*Heads up* An open heart surgery scar is visible later in this post! First I talk about, then I show it. You will be re-warned before I show it. (I promise.)

I have people coming to my blog almost every day through searches such as “woman’s open heart surgery scar.” I assume these are women who’ll be having open-heart surgery who want to know what they’re gonna have to deal with.

As someone who’s been through it, I’ll show you. I have a completely un-retouched photo in this post. (The lighting’s not special or perfect, but I think can you see what you need to.)

I don’t care if the photo’s embarrassing. If it helps the curious patients, I’m happy to do it. I don’t know if this qualifies as over-sharing. Sometimes I’m not sure what the line is between helpful-sharing/quelling curiosity and over-sharing/annoying people.

I feel like on this specific blog though, I don’t worry about it too much. If you come here, you’re here to hear about my life. I’m not mucking up a feed on some social network. If you’re here, you’re gonna get me, I’m pretty sure.

A picture is worth 1,000 words. So, I guess you don’t need me to say anything else. Nonetheless, I’ll talk about it a little.

My doctors were amazingly wonderful. They definitely made my scar as small as they could. In the scheme of open-heart surgery scars, mine’s pretty small. Not all scars will look like mine. (My surgery was performed by Dr. Gus Vlahakes at Mass General, in case you’re looking for my incredible surgeon.)

Yes, my scar’s not pleasant to look at. And yes, as all other scars, I can feel it. And it feels weird. Personally, I think it feels weirder than normal scars because you can tell my sternum was broken in two. Sternums have a specific feel. And mine doesn’t feel that way.

My scar can be almost completely hidden by my cleavage. (Just a tiny bit sticks out at the very top, but unless someone is really paying attention, I don’t think it’s usually noticed. (Or maybe it’s noticed all the time, and people just rarely point it out to me. Who knows, really.))

If I were a bikini-wearing lady, things would be different, ’cause breasts aren’t pushed together in most bikini tops. (I don’t wear bikinis ’cause my abs shouldn’t be flaunted and I hate the sun, not ’cause of scar embarrassment.)

In addition to the main scar, at the bottom of the photo, you can see two lighter horizontal dashes. I think those are from my epicardial ablation. There are a few little horizontal dashes down there. I think some are from random tubes/wires that stuck out of me after surgery.

Speaking of the photo, I try to make my blog suitable for all audiences. I try not to post any inappropriate photos. But I don’t consider this to really be inappropriate. My breasts are covered. But because I know people still might not want to be looking at a random woman’s torso wherever you read this. I’ve left a good scrolling space so the photo doesn’t show up as, bam, the first thing.

So, here we go.

*re-warning (last warning)*
The open-heart surgery scar photo is below. If you don’t want to see it,ย stop right here.ย Don’t scroll down. Leave this post, and hopefully I’ll see you tomorrow! (If you do want to see it, get scrolling!)

post-surgery woman's open heart surgery scar - the scar in the middle of the sternum

90 thoughts on “My Open Heart Surgery Scar”

      1. I got a tattoo over/around mine to make it less noticeable. People used to ask me what that thing on my chest was and now people just say “cool tattoo”
        you can see it at:
        because I don’t think I can post a picture in the comments. I just uploaded a pic onto my tumblr so it’s at the beginning of the blog.

        1. Hi Lisa! Wow, what an interesting choice. Unfortunately, I can’t find the picture on your tumblr. You can leave a specific link to that page though, rather than your general tumblr, if you’d like. Thanks so much for commenting!

        2. I wanted a tattoo as well. For a memory of what I went thru. But I thought we couldn’t do tattoos.? As well as ears pierced.

          1. Hey Alesia! Who said you couldn’t get a tattoo? I don’t want one, but I don’t see why you couldn’t…. Of course, I’m not a doctor. So, I have no idea!

          2. We’re not supposed to but I don’t really listen. I have both ears pierced 3 times on each side and both sides of my nose pierced as we as I had my belly button and eyebrow pierced in the passed. I also have 4 tattoos. I just ensure I keep things clean and don’t get them infected. I don’t advise it. This is just what I do

          3. I met someone from my town who has endocarditis. She has it for life. Tattoos are an increase risk of endocarditis. For me it’s not worth it. I do have 2 tattoo from years ago. But if I was going to get an tattoo…..I would be medicated for sureโ˜บ

    1. When was your surgery. Is your scar ropey and is it flat. Has it been raised and how to flatten. Email me at
      [email redacted for privacy concerns]. thank you I had open heart surgery 5-15

      1. Hey there Carol!

        Thank you so much for writing! My scar isn’t totally flat, no… It lifts up a little on my chest.I really don’t know how to make it any more flat… It just kind of is there….

        My surgery was March of 2013.

        Thanks for your comment, and I wish you all the best of luck with your scar!

  1. That’s not too bad at all – considering the extent of surgery. I think it’s great that you’re fairly confident and you’ve given me some positivity. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It’s all probably about our perception, I suppose. I’m sure probably most people who have one thinks it looks crappy. (I know I have good and bad days with mine.) No one wants to have a scar in the middle of her chest. ๐Ÿ˜› Thank you for commenting! ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Hi…my husband had to have a valve replacement so he had open heart surgery its been almost a year now since surgery and we can still feel the wires…they arent sticking out of his skin and he hasnt had pain its just the fact of feeling the wires go all the way down his chest…i was just wondering if you can feel the wires…hes smaller build and my mom said if hed gain weight he prob wouldnt be the wires i dunno im just concerned i love him and he is my best friend so i wanna see if this is normal

        1. Hi Candace,

          I actually can sort of feel the wires. It’s not uncomfortable. But sometimes if I’m lying down and put my hand on my sternum, I can feel the bumps of the wires. I don’t feel them all the time. But yeah, they’re there, and I can tell. ๐Ÿ˜›

          Hope that was helpful. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Thank you for sharing. I’m 3 weeks out and am currently disgusted by mine but I know it will get better. Yours looks amazing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. I’m sorry to hear you’re disgusted with yours… But I completely understand. I had a really hard time dealing with mine. Even still, I sometimes struggle with it.

      I hope your surgery went well and that your recovery goes smoothly. Thanks very much for commenting!

  3. Wow, you are very lucky! Your scar looks great. I just had my third open heart surgery a few weeks ago. My scar is MUCH longer and unfortunately, can’t be hidden well. I am very grateful for my wonderful surgical team, but as a 30-year-old woman I’m a little more self-conscious now. Mine is healing well though and I’m blessed to have a healthy heart again.

  4. Your scar does not look bad at all! I had anterior cervical surgery where they went through my neck and my scar looks much worse. Yours is honestly not bad at all. With your warning in the article of the upcoming photo, I was ready for something really bad. Yours looks like it healed really nice.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. Yeah, I guess maybe I little over-warned and will perhaps edit that down… I just don’t want to catch anyone off guard on the internet who’s just reading along non-chalantly then all of a sudden, “Wait! What’s that?! Gah!” ๐Ÿ˜›

  5. I had open heart surgery 17 months ago and I have a very red bumpy scar. Your scar is beautiful. I was prepared to view something totally different.

    1. Well, thank you for saying it’s beautiful. I’m sorry to hear you don’t seem pleased with your scar, but I hope you had a very successful surgery and are at least feeling healthier! (Sorry, I know that’s not always good enough…)

      1. Thank you for sharing. Will have my surgery shortly and was wondering about incision. I know each person is different but glad u posted picture

  6. Hello. You and your scar are beautiful. Thanks for sharing. I’m scheduled for mitral valve repair next week. Not scared but anxious. I’d be a dope if I wasn’t! Any advice? I’m having mine at Mt Auburn Hospital in Cambridge MA. Guess we’re neighbors. I’m a 62 year old active grandma. My “age-appropriate” plunging neckline may not be out of the question after all.

    No symptoms but echo numbers are changing, condition severe. Doc suggests surgery before irreversible heart damage. I’m SO ready. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Rosa.

      I don’t know if I have any advice, really. All I’d really say is use that breathing apparatus they give you to practice using big breaths! Better to work on it right away and get back into the swing of life sooner rather than later – or at least that what’s I found.

      I wish you luck with your mitral valve repair! Thanks again for commenting.

  7. Hello
    Surgery (mitral valve repair) was 1-21, went excellent. Not as bad as some would imagine. Could have come home in 4 days but I opted to stay an extra day. I have all positive stories.

  8. Anybody post open heart (mitral valve repair) anybody ever experience daily migraines with brief aura and/or finger numbness? Migraines are worse than the surgery. Seeing surgeon next week. I have had migraines for many years. Thanks.

  9. Hey I have a question about your scar I had surgery 4 weeks ago (Ross procedure) How long did it take for your scar to look like that? As mine is very visable. Also Rosa I was the same I had migraines everyday and numbness in my fingers and toes. It has cleared up now but my doctor put me back on to my daily migraine tablets.

    1. Hi Brogan. It definitely didn’t look like this at the beginning. I don’t remember exactly how long it took to settle down to looking like this, but I’d say it probably took two months?

  10. Hi..Thank you for sharing. I’m lying in bed at the Brigham as we speak. My scar doesn’t look like yours but it’s about 3 days post op. I’m 43. Still scared as heck..mine appears glued, thick and ugly.

    1. Hi Robyn, thanks for commenting. I hope your scar heals well soon. Sorry to hear you’re in the hospital, but glad to hear you’re 3 days post op. It’s (hopefully) all better from here! My best advice, if I’d be so bold as to give some, is to get away from the internet for a while… It can be a real dark, scary, black hole here in cyberspace. I know sometimes I feel worse when I fall into the rabbit’s hole of comparing myself to other people… Good luck with your recovery!

  11. Thank you for sharing, Aurora! I remember before and after I had my open heart surgery at twenty, I couldn’t find anyone who had a blog about their heart condition, scar or post-op life. Now, 3 1/2 years later, the wound has healed but I had some issues with scar tissue so it is much more obvious than yours! Some times I struggle with wearing a low cut top, for fear of attracting unwanted attention, at times I wear my bikini and put on my don’t-give-a-damn attitude. Still trying to train up my fitness level but some days are so long and tiring my muscles won’t barge. How do you keep your energy going? ๐Ÿ™‚ I am amazed and inspired by what you have achieved! Just thought you needed to hear that! Stay healthy and happy x

    1. Thank you so much, Mathilda, for this lovely and wonderful comment! How sweet!

      As far as how I keep my energy up… sometimes I’m better than others (as I think most people are). But anytime my energy isn’t high enough, I just try to think about all the things I want to accomplish. Those dreams usually get me up and moving! ๐Ÿ™‚

      I totally feel you on the whole being scared of what you’re gonna wear thing. I’m sure it will be a long time ’til I can rock a bikini, but if that ever happens, I’ll definitely be going after one that hides my scar… I’ll probably try laser scar removal at some point. I hear it can work wonders. But I guess we shall see!

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment!

  12. I had my open heart surgery 52 years ago when the heart lung machine first started being used. I never covered my scar, mine starts at the base of my neck and goes down close to where yours does. I have a large tube hole scar to one side and another in my groin. At time of mine it was I would live or die, no other in between. I have had a super life and lived and traveled half way around the world and have a son, husband died 4 years ago.
    Good luck to all who have to endure this type surgery.

  13. Hey, I’m 21. I’ve had 3open heart and 3 cardiac caths. And a valve replacement
    Soon. Your scar is beautiful. Mine looks like someone tried to kil me. Its about 14 inches long, and I have about 4 places on my belly where tubes were, two on each wrist, some on my foot, and on next to my groin. I’ve also had a uvula fix. I’m sitting here at the doctors office waiting too see if ill have my 8th surgery done. But thankfully withj new technology It will go through a vein in my inner thy. You are so lucky that your scar is small. I’m thankfull for mine, and I do modeling with it shown. I used to be embarassed about it but now iim not because I know I’m not alone(:

    1. Wow, Jessie! I am so sorry to hear about all you’ve been through with your health. That’s great that you’re finding confidence in your body though. ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck with everything in the future, and thanks for your comment!

    2. Hi jessi, I’m 27 years old and have had 6 open heart surgerys and my most recent was two months ago. It’s rare to find people that are young that have had multiple surgerys. Since my 6th surgery I have struggled to recover each time gets harder and harder. But I’m very lucky to be alive. ๐Ÿ™‚ hope your doing well.

  14. Your scar is not bad at all. Lovely hands. Thank you for postingโ€ฆI will be facing same.
    I do put keloids though so I think mine wonโ€™t look so good.

  15. THAT LOOK SPECTACULAR thatโ€™s amazing compared to mine I have three thick scar lines as well as round scars form chest tube sites. You should he very proud of yours.

    1. Well, thank you Kat. I think you’re correct that as far as open heart surgery scars go, mine is pretty darn good – of course, I wish it weren’t there. ๐Ÿ˜› But you win some, you lose some, I suppose!

  16. Thank you! Iโ€™m about to go under the knife and am gratified a scar can be minimal! I feel better. Thank you!! P

  17. I am now 8 weeks outโ€ฆ.my scar is longer and, of course, still looks worse.
    What bothers me is that it is increasingly uncomfortable and it has lumpiness at the bottom of my sternum and upper part lifts like a small hill over the scar.

    1. Hey Linda, Thanks for your comment. I agree it can be kind of uncomfortable. Now that I’m getting thinner, I think it’s a bit more pronounced. I can feel it more. I can sort of feel the little wire (or whatever is threaded in there) holding it all together. But it could be worse for sure. I hope it continues to get better for you! (And congrats on (I’m assuming?) a successful surgery. :-))

    2. I’m 7 weeks post-op after mitral valve repair. I’m 66. Scar looks pretty good. The vertical 2-inch lump at the top of the scar, which the nurse (Mt. Sinai Hospital in NYC) said is the “third boob,” does that go away? Incision is very uncomfortable; can’t bear to have fabric over it. I’m sure that’ll improve imperceptibly every day. Feeling great and really glad the surgery is behind me. Thanks for your great blog, Aurora. Yes, you do have great hands!

      1. Thanks for the comment, Marge! My pain subsided. (It doesn’t hurt at all to touch the area where my incision was, and it hasn’t hurt for years.) I hope the same can be said for you soon enough!

        As far as the “third boob,” I’m sorry, but I’m actually not sure what that refers to… I don’t see or remember anything around my scar that reminded me of a third boob. But I hope it does go away for you!

        1. Aurora, it’s a 2-inch vertical lump that’s just above the top part of the scar. I forgot to ask about it at my follow-up. I’ll email the doc and report back what I learn!

  18. Your scar is a lot better than mineโ€ฆ Mine stretches from almost my collarbone to about 3 inches away from my belly button, and it is usually visible with what I wear. It’s been 14 years since my last surgery, almost 15, as I had it when I was three days old. I’m having another surgery next year, and I’m hoping that with time my scar will be as unnoticeable as yoursโ€ฆ

    1. Mine is the same. I am 30 and had my surgery when i was almost 2. My scar is also thicker on the top, i’m not sure why. I also have 2 smaller scars from additional tubes but mine have indented into my skin and it looks like I have a second bigger belly button 2 inches above my actual belly button

  19. My daughter-in-law’s scar is 8 years old now. It is longer than yours and has some keloid involvement. She is never embarrassed and never covers it up. I always like to see it because I am reminded she is still here with us.

  20. Thanks for posting a picture of your scar. I had open heart surgery 4 months ago and my scar is still red around the edges. Also my scar starts much higher up – close to the collar bone. I’m hoping it will heal like yours and just be a thin white line. I had an atrial myxoma (benign tumor) removed early May. I was not prepared on how hard/long the recovery would take but I’m thinking I am 75% back to pre-surgery energy. I work hard every day trying to get back in shape.

    1. Fran, thanks so much for commenting. In my experience, it can indeed be very hard to sort of get back to real life after open-heart surgery. I finally feel (over 4 years out) that I not only got back to where I was, but am in a generally better place in almost every aspect of my life. ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck with your continued recovery. I’m pulling for you!

  21. Thanks for posting the pic! Mine looks the same. But I have only one other scar from the tube and thank god for that! That was my worst part of it was them taking out the chest tube : ) I am on year3 and will be going back 2 more times in my life if I am lucky! When I dress up is the only time I want to hide my scar. Take care and PS I cannot believe that you don’t remember them taking out the chest tubes after your surgury….worst pain ever!!!!!!!!!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Alesia. Also, wow. Two more times – as in two more surgeries? I can hardly imagine! Yeah, dressing up can be rough. Some things hide it better than others. And I think I need to just work on learning what works well and what doesn’t work quite as well. ๐Ÿ˜› Thanks again for your comment, and good luck!

  22. I am the exact same way! I’m in grade 8 and 13 years ago i had my surgery.. except my surgery was done by someone else.. my scar does feel weird but then i got to thinking, i looked up pictures of others scars and they’res dont look healthy.. they may be but mine is the exact same way as yours. blended into my skin. and dont worry.. i hate the sun..! Its weird because people at my school ask me whats in between my breasts and im like.. its a scar.. why are you paying that much attention? lol like seriously.. there is so much bullying at my school and the girls are really mean to me to the stress might cause to another surgery.. hopefully not!! i had to wear.. i forget what its called but it was a little machine.. i had cords attached to me and every time i got stressed out i had to press the button and it would warn the doctor and i had to wear it for 24 hours… and on the side, i used to have to wear a back brace.. lol.. uhm.. if you want to see a selfie.. my instagram is @boohowwhat ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Blythe! Thank you so much for commenting. I’m so sorry about the bullying… I wish I had something profound to say about that, but I don’t. Though, it seems you’ve got it all under control with a good head on your shoulders. Thanks again for commenting. I wish you luck, and you can reach out anytime!

  23. Just came across your blog from searching open heart scars (Mine is about 11 inches down & about 4 inches across. Like a capital letter T. Keloids. And to top if off the 11 inch line is crooked!). I had my first surgery 42 years ago, 1973. The second one was 17 years ago, 1998. I have congenital defect called Tetrology of Fallot. Congestive heart failure & some kind of arythmia I forgot the name of…thank you heart & lung machine. Aside from the physical & medical facts, I struggle very much with the necklines in my clothes. Being petite, I can wear smaller sizes but it seems all the necklines are V shaped or so scooped neck, my scar is always a problem. Like many readers on your blog, i am very grateful to be alive. I sound sarcastic in my monologue here, but I guess it’s just me Trying to keep my sense of humor. Technology has really improved with heart surgeries & I know my next one (yes I know it’s a coming) won’t be so drastic looking. If anyone has any ideas on how to deal with clothing issues, I’d like to hear them! I’ve started to sew but have no idea where to begin making adjustments or creating something that could fit under the V neckline. And honestly, I really think I’m to old to change my ways cuz I know non-scarred individuals ARE truly asking themselves what is wrong with her or what happened to her chest? I can see it in their faces when my neckline pulls away from my body. This is a long monologue but I’m hoping it is not in vain & that someone will have an “aha monent.” My heartfelt thanks to you for showing your scar online & well wishes to all your readers. ~Sally~

    1. Yeah, clothing shopping can be so rough! Sometimes I try on something so beautiful… except for the fact that it highlights my scar. Grrr. Thanks so much for commenting! I wish you luck with your health (and finding clothing you feel comfortable in :-))

  24. Wow your scar is amazing, I’m 3 months post op from havin tumour removed from aortic valve & valve replaced & my scar looks awful still!! Also the top of my sternum bone promenatly sticks out which is a lot more noticeable than the scar itself when I’m wearing a slightly lower top, not sure if this is normal or not!!

  25. Nice battle scar! Mine is a bit longer, and still kinda dark being only 4 months post op, but I think it will hopefully lighten up like yours after a year or two.

    I guess I will have to keep the scar out of the sun for about a year (or use sunscreen) when jogging etc, else it may darken it a bit from what I understand….

    BTW, loved the clips of you in those gameshows ๐Ÿ˜€

  26. I’m about a year Going on a 11 months technically. When I first came home I was googling open heart surgery scars years later to get get an idea about what it would look like. 11 months down I can officially have an idea. It’s pretty much what yours looks like. It has faded to a very pale barely there pink white line. I’m very proud of my scar and hope I always have it. A year down I’m not really expecting anymore fading

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