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Sternal traction after open heart operation: An effective alternative to delayed sternal closure

The Annals of Thoracic Surgery
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0003-4975(95)00417-j
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Background. Routine closure of the sternum after cardiovascular surgical procedures sometimes causes severe cardiac depression because of a tamponade-like reduction in ventricular filling, leading to cardiogenic shock. Leaving the sternal halves apart, sealing the mediastinum by simply approximating the skin or using a prosthetic patch, and then performing delayed sternal closure in several days is a widely practiced life-saving maneuver. Methods. Described herein is an experience with 5 patients with severe cardiac output depression of the type usually treated by delayed sternal closure. Instead, upward (outward) traction was applied to the anterior chest while the sternum was primarily closed. Traction was maintained with full-thickness chest wall sutures. Results. The traction sutures were removed successfully in the intensive care unit between 1 and 4 days postoperatively, after appropriate vigorous treatment of postbypass myocardial enlargement and pulmonary distention and edema. Conclusions. This method of sternal traction allows physiologic improvement equivalent to delayed sternal closure in some patients and obviates the need for returning to the operating room to close the sternum in the early postoperative period.

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