Does negative pressure wound therapy have a role in preventing poststernotomy wound complications?

Surg Innov. 2009 Jun;16(2):140-6. doi: 10.1177/1553350609334821. Epub 2009 May 21.


Background: Sternal wound infection (SWI) remains a devastating complication after cardiac surgery, decreasing long-term and short-term survival. In treating documented SWI, negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) reduces wound edema and time to definitive closure and improves peristernal blood flow after internal mammary artery (IMA) harvesting. The authors evaluated NPWT as a form of "well wound" therapy in patients at substantial risk for SWI based on existing risk stratification models.

Methods: Records of 57 adult cardiac surgery patients (September 2006 to April 2008) were reviewed. After preoperative risk assessment, NPWT was instituted on the clean, closed sternotomy immediately after surgery and continued 4 days postoperatively. Adverse postoperative events, including SWI, need for readmission, and other complications, were documented.

Results: Mean age was 60.4 +/- 10 years, and 89.5% were male; 77.2% were obese (mean body mass index 35.3 +/- 6.7), 54.4% were diabetic, and 29 (50.9%) were both obese and diabetic. Coronary artery bypass (CAB) with single IMA was performed in 50.9% of the patients followed in frequency by combined CAB/valve, non-CAB surgery, and CAB with bilateral IMA. Estimated risk for SWI was 6.1 +/- 4%. All patients tolerated NPWT to completion. Thirty-day and in-hospital mortality was 1.8% and unrelated to DSWI. No treatment of SWI was required.

Conclusions: In this high-risk cohort, 3 postoperative SWI cases were anticipated but may have been mitigated by NPWT. This is an easily applied and well-tolerated therapy and may stimulate more effective wound healing. Among patients with increased SWI risk, strong consideration should be given to NPWT as a form of "well wound" therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / complications
  • Heart Diseases / pathology
  • Heart Diseases / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Mediastinitis / etiology
  • Mediastinitis / prevention & control*
  • Middle Aged
  • Negative-Pressure Wound Therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Wound Infection / etiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control*
  • Thoracotomy / adverse effects*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Healing