Phrenic nerve damage via a right thoracotomy in older children with secundum ASD

Ann Thorac Surg. 1993 Aug;56(2):328-30. doi: 10.1016/0003-4975(93)91170-r.


Phrenic nerve damage (PND) in children after cardiac operations is now recognized as being more frequent than previously thought. In a prospective study on 400 children, we previously demonstrated electrophysiologic evidence of postoperative PND in approximately 16% of patients, with one third of cases occurring in children under 18 months. In the past 18 months, 30 children have had atrial septal defect (ASD) repairs as their only operative procedure. Fourteen children had ASD repairs via a midline incision, and 16 ASD repairs were via a right thoracotomy. No PND (assessed by phrenic nerve latency) was found after a midline approach. In the right thoracotomy group, 5 children had evidence of PND (31%; p = 0.05). Four of these 5 patients were female and more than 14 years of age. The incidence of damage in this pubescent group was 80% (p < 0.05). In the older age group the duration of ventilation was not prolonged, but affected patients had symptoms of fatigue and breathlessness postoperatively. These data suggest a strong association between right thoracotomies for ASD repairs and PND, especially in the female pubescent group when a low submammary skin incision (seventh to eighth space) is used with a fifth to sixth space entry into the thoracic cavity. In conclusion, the right thoracotomy approach for ASD repair appears to be a significant risk factor for PND in older children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Phrenic Nerve / injuries*
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Thoracotomy / adverse effects*