Surgical management of sternoclavicular joint infections

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2003 Apr;125(4):945-9. doi: 10.1067/mtc.2003.172.


Objective: Sternoclavicular joint infections are rare, and their management is controversial. We reviewed our experience with the surgical management of this condition.

Methods: From August 1988 to August 2001, 26 patients (16 men and 10 women) were treated surgically for infected sternoclavicular joints. The median age was 56 years (range, 20-77 years). Patients who had a recent previous median sternotomy were excluded.

Results: All patients were symptomatic. Pain was present in 21 patients, swelling in 14 patients, fever in 11 patients, and erythema in 9 patients. Associated conditions included recent or ongoing infections in other areas in 12 patients (pneumonia in 4 patients, multiple joint infections in 2 patients, and other in 6 patients) and an indwelling central venous catheter in 1 patient. Five patients had a history of trauma in the region of the joint. Four patients had prior joint incision and drainage. Unilateral sternoclavicular joint resection was done in 18 patients, bilateral resection in 2 patients, and incision and drainage with debridement in 6 patients. Wound culture results were positive in 24 patients, and the most common organism isolated was Staphylococcus aureus (n = 17). Eleven patients had transposition of the ipsilateral pectoralis major muscle to obliterate residual space and to reconstruct the chest wall. Two (7.7%) patients had complications, and 1 died (operative mortality, 3.8%). Follow-up was complete in all 25 operative survivors and ranged from 2 months to 10 years (median, 25 months). Twenty-one patients are alive without symptoms, infection, or limitations in range of motion. Four patients have died as a result of causes unrelated to their joint infections.

Conclusions: Symptomatic sternoclavicular joint infections often require surgical intervention. Surgical resection combined with muscle transposition provides effective long-term outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infections / surgery*
  • Joint Diseases / microbiology
  • Joint Diseases / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sternoclavicular Joint*