Background: The risk of repeat sternotomy (RS) is often taken into account when making clinical management decisions. Current literature on RS suggests a risk of approximately 5% to 10% for major morbidity. We sought to establish the true risk of RS in a contemporary pediatric series.
Methods: All RS between October 2002 and August 2006 were analyzed (602 RS in 558 patients). Median age was 3.6 years (range, 0.1 to 45.1); weight, 14.2 kg (2.0 to 112.2). Operations performed at RS were Glenn 22% (131), Fontan 21% (129), aortic valve repair/replacement 12% (72), right ventricle-pulmonary artery conduit 11% (67), Rastelli 7% (39), heart transplant 5% (31), and other 22% (133). Forty-seven percent of patients (280) had single-ventricle physiology. Incidence of second sternotomy was 67% (406), third 28% (166), fourth 4% (24), fifth 0.8% (5), and sixth 0.2% (1). A major injury upon RS was defined as one causing hemodynamic instability requiring vasopressor support or emergent transfusion; femoral cannulation or emergent cardiopulmonary bypass; and any morbidity. A minor injury is any other injury during RS.
Results: The incidence of a major injury was not different between RS (0.3%; 2 of 602) and first-time sternotomy (0%; 0 of 1,274; p > 0.1). Incidence of a minor injury was 0.66% (4 of 602). No injury resulted in hemodynamic instability, neurologic injury, or death. Two patients (0.3%) required a nonemergent blood transfusion secondary to injury. (Nonemergent was defined as adminstration rate of less than 0.2 cc/kg/min and less than 10 cc/kg in total.) Femoral cannulation was performed in 4 of 602 RS cases (< 0.6%). Sternal wound infection was 0.5% (3 of 602); reoperation for postoperative bleeding was 1% (8 of 602). Median intensive care unit stay was 3 days (1 to 174); median hospital stay was 7 days (1 to 202). Hospital survival was 98%.
Conclusions: Repeat sternotomy can represent a negligible risk of injury and of subsequent morbidity or mortality. Therefore, the choice of management strategies for patients should not be affected by the need for RS.