Rigid Plate Fixation Versus Wire Cerclage for Sternotomy After Cardiac Surgery: A Meta-Analysis

Ann Thorac Surg. 2018 Jul;106(1):298-304. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2018.02.043. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


Background: Traditionally, wire cerclage has been used to reapproximate the sternum after sternotomy. Recent evidence suggests that rigid plate fixation for sternal closure may reduce the risk of sternal complications.

Methods: The Medline and Embase databases were searched from inception to February 2017 for studies that compared rigid plate fixation with wire cerclage for cardiac surgery patients undergoing sternotomy. Random effects meta-analysis compared rates of sternal complications (primary outcome, defined as deep or superficial sternal wound infection, or sternal instability), early mortality, and length of stay (secondary outcomes).

Results: Three randomized controlled trials (n = 427) and five unadjusted observational studies (n = 1,025) met inclusion criteria. There was no significant difference in sternal complications with rigid plate fixation at a median of 6 months' follow-up (incidence rate ratio 0.51, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.20 to 1.29, p = 0.15) overall, but a decrease when including only patients at high risk for sternal complications (incidence rate ratio 0.23, 95% CI: 0.06 to 0.89, p = 0.03; two observational studies). Perioperative mortality was reduced favoring rigid plate fixation (relative risk 0.40, 95% CI: 0.28 to 0.97, p = 0.04; four observational studies and one randomized controlled trial). Length of stay was similar overall (mean difference -0.77 days, 95% CI: -1.65 to +0.12, p = 0.09), but significantly reduced with rigid plate fixation in the observational studies (mean difference -1.34 days, 95% CI: -2.05 to -0.63, p = 0.0002).

Conclusions: This meta-analysis, driven by the results of unmatched observational studies, suggests that rigid plate fixation may lead to reduced sternal complications in patients at high risk for such events, improved perioperative survival, and decreased hospital length of stay. More randomized controlled trials are required to confirm the potential benefits of rigid plate fixation for primary sternotomy closure.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Plates*
  • Bone Wires
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sternotomy / adverse effects*
  • Sternotomy / methods
  • Surgical Wound Dehiscence / prevention & control
  • Surgical Wound Dehiscence / surgery*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / diagnosis
  • Surgical Wound Infection / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Closure Techniques
  • Wound Healing / physiology