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Post-Thoracotomy Pain

What Is Post-Thoracotomy Pain?

Post-thoracotomy pain is a condition in which you have pain after a chest incision, or thoracotomy, has healed. You might have had a chest incision for a heart or lung surgery, and it is normal to have pain as you heal from surgery. However, post-thoracotomy pain lingers two months or more after the incision has healed. It can affect up to 50 percent of patients who receive a chest incision.

Post-thoracotomy pain is usually caused by damage to the intercostal nerves and muscles between the ribs. Unfortunately, this damage is often unavoidable during surgery.


The symptoms of post-thoracotomy pain include:

  • Increased touch or temperature sensitivity at the incision site
  • Itching at the incision site
  • Pain that wraps around the chest
  • Pain that radiates from the front of the chest to the back
  • Pain along the ribcage
  • Pain at the incision site

The pain can feel like an aching, cramping, pinching, shooting, spasm or stabbing sensation.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for post-thoracotomy pain include:

  • Medication management – Your doctor may recommend medications, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, topical ointments, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, or anti-epileptics.
  • Injection therapies – Injections can help manage various types of pain by blocking nerve signals. We offer nerve blocks including scar injections, peripheral nerve blocks, sympathetic nerve blocks and epidural injections amongst others.
  • Stimulation therapies – Procedures can stimulate the nerves and regulate their signals to reduce pain. We offer dorsal root ganglion stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation and spinal cord stimulation.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of post-thoracotomy pain, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat post-thoracotomy pain.