Post op issues - related to ES?

Hi all.
As most of you know I am now 3-weeks post op. I am having some issues now post op that I did not have before the surgery and some issues that I had years before the surgery but had been under control.

My heart has an occasional strange beat that is very noticeable. It wakes me up. I also feel it during the day. I did not have this before the surgery. I don’t believe its brought on by anxiety but it can certainly raise my anxiety. I was at the docs last week and the ekg showed some abnormalities but not an extra or skipped beat. My doc was concerned but compared it to last year’s which seemed to be the same so he said its my ‘normal.’ Maybe the ekg didnt capture the strange. My ekg right before the surgery at the hospital did not raise any alarms. I also have shortness of breath - or what feels like the inability to completely exhale before my body inhales again. I did not have this before the surgery.

My doc says its related to GERD which is putting pressure on my diaphragm. I had GERD issues over a year ago but had that completely under control without medication.

I guess I am reaching out here to know if these symptoms are consistent with the vagus nerve being disturbed during surgery. It makes sense given that it happened after the surgery. Also, maybe my GERD was caused by ES, but because ES symptoms change and come and go maybe now my GERD is now back from the nerve disruption.

Now I feel that I’m back on the roller coaster to try to figure this out. I feel like the surgery has opened Pandora’s box - fixed one thing but now has caused other issues. I have an appointment with a cardiologist but that is weeks out.


Hi, so sorry to hear you feel like you are on another goose chase on top of healing from surgery!

The anatomy of the vagus nerve is very diverse and complex. Just the proximity of where the vagus nerve exits the skull to the styloid high at it’s attachment and along its course in the neck gives you an absolute yes to wondering if it could be related to your current symptoms due to operative swelling and irritation from changing your anatomy. To list a few, the vagus nerve has a direct relationship to heart rate, respiratory rate(breathing cadence), blood pressure, gastrointestinal (GI) regulation and more indirectly to body temperature regulation. Pressure to this nerve can produce chest pain/pressure, irregular heart beats (arrhythmia), GERD like symptoms/intestine dysregulation (constipation/diarrhea fluctuations), urinary tract dysfunction/pelvic pain…many problems of which I have only listed a few. It is also deeply rooted in your parasympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) so stress/anxiety is a player as well. I think this is what scares many doctors away from this as a cause…so many possibilities. Hope this is helpful.

It is so scary to feel your heart not beating normally. Give this vagus nerve thought a good bit of discussion time with your cardiologist. Hopefully he/she will listen intently and give you proper guidance!


Thank you for your input and advice.

I’m a just a bundle of nerves in too many ways. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I totally second what JustBreathe has told you. Many doctors are uninformed or underestimate the part our cranial nerves play in so many bodily functions. I just advised another forum member who’s having heart rate issues to talk to her cardiologist about vagus nerve involvement if her cardio tests came up clear. Hopefully she did & he was receptive to her thoughts.

You are still early in your recovery. I had vagus nerve symptoms prior to my surgery (heart palpitations & shortness of breath among other things), & they did not go away until a good 2-3 months post op. I suspect with time, what you’re experiencing now will subside. I also think that what you suggested about your previous GERD & heart symptoms possibly being related to ES is correct. My early ES symptoms began w/ choking on food. I’ve never had a problem w/ swallowing then one day I needed to have the Heimlich maneuver done. It was horrible! It happened a second time a couple of weeks later. It was several years before other more explicitly ES symptoms began, & I was diagnosed. All this to say - your GERD & early heart rate issues could have been the warning signs of what you later learned was ES.

Following up w/ your cardiologist is a good idea. Just try not to stress too much about it in the meantime - as you mentioned - that will likely exacerbate the problems.


Thank you Isaiah for your informative words. Its hard not to freak out with heart issues, but this supportive site has helped tremendously.


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Hi JustBreathe -

I would like to add one more symptom to the vagus nerve list - vocal loss. The vagus nerve also at least partially innervates the vocal cords thus vocal loss from ES is often associated w/ vagus nerve irritation or damage.

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Is there anything that this nerve cant do? Makes other nerves jealous.


You are not alone there my friend - we all are :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Yes, the list is very very long - fluctuation/loss of voice, difficulty swallowing (delayed pharyngeal reflex seen with modified barium swallow testing), etc…such a fascinating nerve with fingers in nearly everything! Very cool…that is until it decides to go on vacation or go ballistic :neutral_face::no_mouth::upside_down_face:


I saw your post from July.
I have not had surgery yet, but all of a sudden two months ago I got a chest pressure sensation and it feels like I can’t exhale completely, and has been around every day since. (I have been to the doctor and they called it stress :roll_eyes:) similar sensations to what you have described.

Did it end up being GERD related? I definitely have been having reflux symptoms but it would be surprising to me if that’s what this is.

Hi Jessica,

I had GERD for years which may, or may not have been related to ES. I slept propped up (and still do), changed my diet, and stopped eating late and it went away. It does feel like pressure, sometimes painful bubbles, sometimes I felt difficulty in breathing and sometimes pain below my shoulder blade.

Surgery disturbed my vagus nerve and caused GERD and breathing issues. After my surgery the GERD issues came back but passed after the nerves calmed down. The real breathing issues I had post op where contributed to a type of sleep apnea called central sleep apnea, in which the breathing signals come from the brain through the vagus nerves and not from a physical blockage. When awake I could breathe more deeply when practicing deep breathing exercises, but when falling asleep I could not exhale fully and I would wake up in a panicked state. It happened after minor exertion three weeks or so after surgery. My body was not ready and the nerves made them selves heard - they were definitely still angry from the surgery. Fortunately, that didn’t last long.

I hope you get some relief soon.

Thank you for the response! I will know to be aware of that for after surgery… I am seeing Dr. Samji in Jan.
It definitely felt related to my heart (but after tons of blood tests and a halter monitor) I am leaning towards GERD or Eagles symptoms.
Glad you are doing better and found relief!

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Hi! Everyone gave u great advice! I just want to put in my two cents. I had myright side out first. Then the left side. At about 2 weeks post op left side my heart freaked out. (I had heart issues with eagles prior tosurgery) but after the left surgery idk why at2 weeks post op it got worse. Thought iwas going todrop dead from fast heart n palputations. I called my surgeon who couldnt help. So i went to the ER. The EKG was fine but resting heart rate was 126 so they gave me beta blockers which helped me survive the next week until my heart regulated on its own. THANK GOD. im 1yr post op no heart issues. Stomach issues are better but not 100%… its my main concern left. I hope everything calms down for you!!


Hi JessicaS ~

It’s likely your symptoms are caused by your vagus nerve (alluded to by BrooklynGirl) being irritated. It’s one of the cranial nerves often affected by ES, & it can cause breathing, heart & gastrointestinal issues when it’s not “happy”. Getting your styloids out should go far toward helping you recover from these symptoms.

You can’t go wrong w/ Dr. Samji! He did both of my ES surgeries - the first in 11/14 & the second in 8/15. I can’t say enough good about him. You’ve made a good medical choice. :clap:

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I’ve been there. Post op left side I had crazy vagus nerve issues affecting my heart, lungs and stomach. I have the right side scheduled for 12/9 and hoping not to go through that again!

Add my name to the list of vagus nerve compressed issues! The list is long for that nerve an what it does for us. I have had a noticeable improvement in that category with just one side removed, waiting on the next to clear it up. Hang in there!


Thanks JustBreathe! I look forward to having this all behind me.