Successful treatment of deep sternal infections following open heart surgery by bilateral pectoralis major flaps

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2004 Feb;25(2):218-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcts.2003.11.019.


Objectives: Severe sternum necrosis requiring extended resection necessitates plastic reconstruction of the resulting defect and stabilization of the chest. We analyzed the outcome of patients undergoing bilateral pectoralis major flap repair on functional and cosmetic results, chest stabilization and pulmonary function.

Methods: Twelve patients undergoing cardiac surgery between 1997 and 2001 suffered from a deep mediastinal wound infection and sternum necrosis. After a mean of two attempts of extensive wound debridement, all 12 patients underwent complete sternal resection with plastic reconstruction by bilateral pectoralis major flaps. Risk factors were obesity (n=10) and diabetes (n=11). Six months postoperatively patients underwent physical examination, pulmonary function testing and functional CT scan.

Results: Three patients died in hospital (two septic multiorgan failure, one heart failure) and nine were discharged with complete wound closure. One patient suffered a lethal stroke during follow-up. At 6-month follow-up no recurrent sternum infection had occurred. Chest stability was satisfactory without impairment of pulmonary function (VC 77.5+/-12.1% at follow-up vs 77.8+/-12.5% preoperatively). Mobility and force of arms and shoulder were adequate; at CT scan the maximum distance change between the former sternoclavicular joint in inspiration versus expiration was minimal. Quality of life questionnaires showed no significant limitations except a disturbed sleep and mild restriction of executing hobbies and social activities.

Conclusions: Bilateral pectoralis major flap repair is a safe technique to cure severe mediastinitis necessitating complete sternal resection. Wounds close without extensive reconstructive surgery. Cosmetic results as well as stabilization of the chest were good. Patients reported an almost uncompromised quality of life without respiratory impairment.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Necrosis
  • Pectoralis Muscles / transplantation*
  • Quality of Life
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / rehabilitation
  • Sternoclavicular Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Sternoclavicular Joint / physiopathology
  • Sternum / pathology
  • Sternum / surgery*
  • Surgical Flaps*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / rehabilitation
  • Surgical Wound Infection / surgery*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome