Transthoracic defibrillation: effect of sternotomy on chest impedance

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1992 Jul;20(1):94-7. doi: 10.1016/0735-1097(92)90143-b.


The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of sternotomy on transthoracic impedance, a major determinant of current flow and defibrillation success. Transthoracic impedance was determined by using a validated test-pulse technique that does not require actual shocks. Seventeen patients undergoing median sternotomy were studied prospectively. Transthoracic impedance was determined before operation, 3 to 5 days after operation and (in eight patients) greater than or equal to 1 month after operation. When measured using paddle electrodes placed in the standard apex-right parasternal defibrillating position, transthoracic impedance declined after sternotomy in all patients, from 77 +/- 18 to 59 +/- 17 omega (p less than 0.01); smaller declines were demonstrated by using other electrode positions. Transthoracic impedance remained below the preoperative level in the eight patients who underwent a second set of measurements at least 1 month after operation. Six normal subjects not undergoing sternotomy underwent serial transthoracic impedance measurements at least 5 days apart; mean transthoracic impedance did not change. It is concluded that transthoracic impedance declines after sternotomy. At any operator-selected energy level a higher current flow will result after sternotomy; this may facilitate postoperative defibrillation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiography, Impedance*
  • Electric Countershock*
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Period
  • Sternum / physiology*
  • Sternum / surgery*