Clamshell or sternotomy for double lung or heart-lung transplantation?

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 1999 Mar;15(3):333-9. doi: 10.1016/s1010-7940(99)00009-3.


Objective: To evaluate the influence of either incision on the lungs and chest wall.

Methods: Ninety-two double lung (DLT) or heart-lung (HLT) transplantations were done since January 1990. There were 22 (24%) hospital deaths, leaving 70 patients with complete data for evaluation. We did 38 DLT and 32 HLT for end-stage chronic respiratory failure (n = 22) and primary (n = 34) or secondary (n = 14) pulmonary hypertension, using 37 fourth or fifth interspace clamshell incisions and 33 median sternotomies.

Results: The clamshell group included a higher percentage of DLTs (73 vs. 33%, P = 0.001) but recipient age, gender, preoperative diagnosis, bronchial anastomotic complications, number of cytomegalovirus infection, episode of acute rejection per patient-months and incidence of bronchiolitis obliterans were not statistically different between the two groups. At a follow-up time of 3.7 +/- 2 years, the overall 5-year survival of 57% was not influenced by the type of incision. The clamshell incision caused sternal over-riding in 12 (32%) patients, and eight surgical clamshell revision were necessary as compared with one median sternotomy (P = 0.02). The clamshell incision was associated with a significantly higher incidence of postoperative chronic pain (27 vs. 6%, P = 0.02). Postoperative mechanical properties of the chest wall were significantly (P < 0.0001) worse in the clamshell-group patients while the intrinsic properties of the airways were not different.

Conclusions: The clamshell incision results in more postoperative deformity, chronic pain, and impaired function as compared with median sternotomy. A bilateral anterolateral thoracotomy without division of the sternum is proposed for the sequential bilateral lung transplantation technique.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Heart-Lung Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / surgery*
  • Lung Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sternum / surgery*
  • Thoracotomy / methods*