Sternal wound infection: Our experience with 200 cases

R. Shafir*, J. Weiss, E. Gur, O. Herman, Y. Siegman-Igra, P. Sorkine, V. Rudick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


More than 200 patients with sternal wound infections have been treated in the Plastic Surgery Department of our Medical Center over the years 1984-1993. Most of these were referrals from other hospitals. In recent years, the cases have become more severe, partially due to the fact that cardiac surgeons tend to operate older and sicker patients more readily than they previously did. 80% of these were post coronary bypass surgery, and the others heart and heart-lung transplants, repair of congenital heart anomalies, valve replacements etc. Several of the cases were cardiac surgery re-do's. Risk factors for developing this complication, such as diabetes, obesity, technical errors of sternal incision, prolonged intubation, the use of aortic balloon, etc. will be discussed. Many of our earlier patients had chronic fistulae following conservative therapy with old treatment modalities. In recent years, patients are usually referred at the acute stage. Most patients undergo removal of sternum and ribs. Previously, reconstruction included mainly transfer of the rectus abdominis muscle, whereas lately the pectoralis muscles is utilized. Omentum was used in only one case. The importance of pre-operative imaging procedures has been thoroughly studied in our series. Especially important is the definition of the extent of the infection, and localization of foreign bodies causing chronic infections, such as suture material, epicardial electrodes etc. A change in infectants has also been noticed. In the first half of the study period, Pseudomonas aeruginosa comprised at least 40%. In the second half, Staphylococcus epidermidis was the predominant and most difficult organism to handle; 15% of our patients had recurrent infections and needed further surgery, up to 6 operations in one case; 3 patients succumbed to rupture of exposed bypasses. Removal of sternum and ribs caused no functional problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-104
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue numberSUPPL. 1-6
StatePublished - 1994


  • Sternum, wound infections


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