Skeletonized internal thoracic artery harvesting reduces chest wall dysesthesia after coronary bypass surgery

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2010 Mar;139(3):674-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2009.03.066. Epub 2009 Sep 22.


Objective: A pain syndrome related to intercostal nerve injury during internal thoracic artery harvesting causes significant morbidity after coronary bypass surgery. We hypothesized that its incidence and severity might be reduced by using skeletonized internal thoracic artery harvesting rather than pedicled harvesting.

Methods: In a prospective double-blind clinical trial, 41 patients undergoing coronary bypass were randomized to receive either unilateral pedicled or skeletonized internal thoracic artery harvesting. Patients were assessed 7 (early) and 21 (late) weeks postoperatively with reproducible sensory stimuli used to detect chest wall sensory deficits (dysesthesia) and with a pain questionnaire used to assess neuropathic pain.

Results: At 7 weeks postoperatively, the area of harvest dysesthesia (percentage of the chest) in the skeletonized group (n = 21) was less (median, 0%; interquartile range, 0-0) than in the pedicled group (n = 20) (2.8% [0-13], P = .005). The incidence of harvest dysesthesia at 7 weeks was 14% in the skeletonized group versus 50% in the pedicled group (P = .02). These differences were not sustained at 21 weeks, as the median area of harvest dysesthesia in both groups was 0% (P = .89) and the incidence was 24% and 25% in the skeletonized and pedicled groups, respectively (P = 1.0). The incidence of neuropathic pain in the skeletonized group compared with the pedicled group was 5% versus 10% (P = .6) at 7 weeks and 0% versus 0% (P = 1.0) at 21 weeks.

Conclusions: Compared with pedicled harvesting, skeletonized harvesting of the internal thoracic artery provides a short-term reduction in the extent and incidence of chest wall dysesthesia after coronary bypass, consistent with reduced intercostal nerve injury and therefore the reduced potential for neuropathic chest pain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / adverse effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intercostal Nerves / injuries*
  • Male
  • Paresthesia / etiology*
  • Paresthesia / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thoracic Arteries / transplantation*
  • Thoracic Wall*
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / adverse effects*
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / methods