Primary closure for postoperative mediastinitis in children

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2004 Sep;128(3):480-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2004.04.023.


Objectives: Mediastinitis affects approximately 1% of children undergoing median sternotomy. Conventional therapy involves debridement followed by open wound care with delayed closure, days to weeks of closed suction or antimicrobial irrigation, and vacuum-assisted closure or muscle flap closure. We hypothesized that primary closure without prolonged suction or irrigation is an effective, less traumatic treatment for mediastinitis in children.

Methods: From January 1986 to July 2002, 6705 procedures involving median sternotomy were performed at the C. S. Mott Children's Hospital, resulting in 57 cases of mediastinitis (0.85%). Cases were divided into 2 groups, with 42 cases treated with primary closure and 15 cases treated with delayed or muscle flap closure. The 42 cases of primary closure comprised the primary study group of this institutional review board-approved, retrospective analysis. Patient demographics, surgical variables, mediastinitis-related parameters, and outcomes were evaluated.

Results: One patient had recurrent mediastinitis for an overall infection eradication rate of 97% (40/41). Three patients (7%) required re-exploration for suspected ongoing infection. Of these re-explorations, 1 patient had evidence of continued mediastinitis. The remaining 2 patients with sepsis of unclear cause had no clinical or culture evidence of recurrent infection. One of these patients ultimately died of sepsis without active mediastinitis for a hospital survival of 97% (41/42). No significant differences could be detected between the treatment successes and failures in this small cohort of patients.

Conclusions: Simple primary closure is an effective means to treat selected cases of postoperative mediastinitis in children. The results compare favorably with other more lengthy or debilitating treatments.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mediastinitis / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sternum / surgery*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / methods