Sternal wound debridement and muscle flap reconstruction: functional implications

Ann Plast Surg. 2003 Aug;51(2):115-22; discussion 123-5. doi: 10.1097/01.SAP.0000058497.92264.E2.


The mortality rate for poststernotomy infection, which occurs in as many as 5% of median sternotomy incisions after cardiovascular surgery, was 37.5% until sternal debridement with muscle or omental flap reconstruction became the standard treatment for this postoperative complication and lowered the mortality rate to just more than 5%. There are few reports in the literature of physical functional deficits and long-term outcome resulting from such reconstruction. The authors evaluated two groups of patients who had undergone coronary bypass surgery at least 6 months earlier. One group had no postoperative complications; the other group had developed marked sternal wound infections that required debridement and pectoralis major or rectus abdominis muscle reconstruction. Both groups underwent pectoralis and rectus muscle strength testing, evaluation of pain and ability to perform those activities of daily living that are dependent on pectoral and rectus muscle function, and completed self-assessment questionnaires. Differences between the two groups were significant (p<0.05) with regard to pain and patient satisfaction with appearance and general functional capacity. Pectoral muscle function and strength were significantly different in patients in whom that muscle was transposed. Rectus muscle strength was not affected by the transposition of a single rectus muscle. Physical morbidity and loss of strength seemed to be related directly to loss of sternal stability stemming from marked infection and debridement rather than from loss of the muscles used in reconstruction.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / transplantation*
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Coronary Artery Bypass
  • Debridement
  • Esthetics
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pectoralis Muscles / transplantation*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Sternum / surgery*
  • Surgical Flaps*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / surgery*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Healing