Total arterial myocardial revascularization using bilateral internal mammary arteries and the role of postoperative sternal stabilization to reduce wound infections in a large cohort study

Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2019 Mar 21;ivz088. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivz088. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Total arterial myocardial revascularization using bilateral internal mammary arteries shows improved results for mortality, long-term survival and superior graft patency. It has become the standard technique according to recent guidelines. However, these patients may have an increased risk of developing sternal wound infections, especially obese patients or those with diabetes. One reason for the wound complications may be early sternum instability. This situation could be avoided by using a thorax support vest (e.g. Posthorax® vest). This retrospective study compared the wound complications after bilateral internal mammary artery grafting including the use of a Posthorax vest.

Methods: Between April 2015 and May 2017, 1613 patients received total arterial myocardial revascularization using bilateral internal mammary artery via a median sternotomy. The Posthorax support vest was used from the second postoperative day. We compared those patients with 1667 patients operated on via the same access in the preceding 26 months. The end points were the incidence of wound infections, when the wound infection occurred and how many wound revisions were needed until wound closure.

Results: The demographic data of both groups were similar. A significant advantage for the use of a thorax support vest could be seen regarding the incidence of wound infections (P = 0.036) and the length of hospital stay when a wound complication did occur (P = 0.018).

Conclusions: As seen in this retrospective study, the early perioperative use of a thorax stabilization vest, such as the Posthorax vest, can reduce the incidence of sternal wound complications significantly. Furthermore, when a wound infection occurred, and the patient returned to the hospital for wound revision, patients who were given the Posthorax vest postoperatively had a significantly shorter length of stay until wound closure.

Keywords: Bilateral mammary artery; External sternum stabilization; Surgical site infection.