Background: Operative closure of atrial septal defect is today considered a high-benefit and low-risk operation. Patients are often young and sensitive to the cosmetic results of the procedure. The midline scar of median sternotomy may be unsightly and can provoke dissatisfaction and psychological distress. For cosmetic reasons, an alternative operative approach, such as right anterolateral thoracotomy, can be proposed, with better aesthetic results and without increasing operative risks.
Methods: Our study reviews retrospectively the long-term results of a consecutive series of 56 young patients in whom the atrial septal defect was closed through a right submammary approach. The indication for this approach was isolated atrial septal defect in female patients with complete development of the breasts.
Results: In-hospital morbidity included three postpericardiotomy syndromes with one operative drainage for a moderate pericardial effusion (subxiphoid approach); 6 patients had supraventricular tachycardia in the early postoperative period. One patient presented with a symptomatic supraventricular arrhythmia and was treated medically for atrial flutter or fibrillation. Follow-up ranged from 12 to 240 months and included 41 of 57 patients. There were no early or late deaths. All patients were in normal sinus rhythm and free of symptoms, in New York Heart Association functional class I. Electrocardiography results showed 4 patients with first-degree atrioventricular block and 5 with complete right bundle branch block. Echocardiographic study results showed 3 patients with a trivial residual shunt. There were no other late complications. Breast volume and symmetry and the character of the scar were evaluated objectively by a physician and subjectively by a multiple-choice questionnaire completed by the same patients. The answers suggested that the patients' subjective impressions were at least commensurate with the objective findings. Most of the patients perceived the cosmetic results as good or excellent. No serious psychological problems related to the scar were found.
Conclusions: Right thoracotomy incision is a safe alternative approach to median sternotomy to repair isolated atrial septal defect in young female patients.