A review of eleven cases of tuberculosis presenting as sternal wound abscess after open heart surgery

Infect Dis (Lond). 2017 Oct;49(10):721-727. doi: 10.1080/23744235.2017.1347817. Epub 2017 Jul 7.


Background: Sternal wound infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis is an uncommon yet highly challenging disease that can be quite insidious with various presentations. We hereby provide a review of 10 cases in current literature and describe an additional case which illustrates the difficulties associated with diagnosis.

Methods: We used PubMed and Google search engine to search the literature for all published papers reporting on cases of sternal M. tuberculosis infections post open-heart surgeries.

Results: A total of 11 cases were presented, including a case of our own. The majority were males and were exposed to endemic areas. The average age was 59.6 ± 15.5 years. Coronary artery bypass surgery accounted for 73% of procedures and the average time to symptoms onset was 12.2 ± 16.6 months. Diabetes was the most reported non-cardiac comorbidity. Presenting symptoms varied and only 5 patients had other organs involved. Blood tests and radiographic studies were neither sensitive nor specific. M. tuberculosis culture on debrided tissues was the most sensitive test but often forgotten initially. Diagnostic delay was seen in almost all cases, often leading to unnecessary courses of antibiotics and aggressive surgical interventions. Finally, all patients responded well to anti-tuberculosis treatment, with reported treatment duration ranging from 9 to 12 months.

Conclusion: M. tuberculosis infection of the sternum should be suspected in late-onset sternal wound infections post open-heart surgery especially when the course is chronic and indolent.

Keywords: Coronary artery bypass surgery; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Open-heart surgery; Sternal osteomyelitis; Sternal wound infection; Sternotomy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / microbiology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / adverse effects*
  • Debridement
  • Delayed Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification*
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnosis
  • Osteomyelitis / therapy
  • Sternotomy / adverse effects
  • Sternum / microbiology*
  • Sternum / pathology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / diagnosis
  • Surgical Wound Infection / microbiology*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Osteoarticular / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Osteoarticular / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Osteoarticular / therapy


  • Antitubercular Agents