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Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2010 Mar;58(2):98-101. doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1186268. Epub 2010 Mar 23.

Modified technique for thoracomyoplasty after posterolateral thoracotomy.

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Department of Thoracic Surgery, Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen, Germany.



Thoracomyoplasty after prior posterolateral thoracotomy (PLT) remains a challenge for the thoracic surgeon. Thoracodorsal artery division after PLT impairs the vascularization supply of the latissimus dorsi muscle (LDM) resulting in muscle mass reduction due to distal atrophy. This makes adequate filling of residual empyema space and/or surgical closure of bronchial stump insufficiency more difficult, and they require alternative surgical procedures. We present an alternative approach using a four-muscle flap technique to include the infraspinatus, the subscapularis and the teres major muscle group, all pedicled from the subscapular artery as a part of a modified thoracomyoplasty technique for closing residual empyema space and bronchial stump insufficiency.


Between 2002 and 2008 we performed the technique in 7 patients with residual empyema space. Three patients had post-tuberculosis syndrome, 2 had postpneumectomy empyema, and 2 had chronic parapneumonic empyema. Three cases were combined with a bronchopleural fistula. All patients underwent a two-stage procedure. First, open window thoracostomy was performed followed by definitive surgical treatment after 3-6 months. In all cases with bronchial insufficiency the stump was covered with a subscapularis muscle flap. The infraspinatus and the teres muscle group were used in combination with a local thoracoplasty.


Mean age was 68 +/- 7.9 years. Time from open window thoracostomy to thoracomyoplasty averaged 4 +/- 1.3 months. The number of resected ribs ranged between 4 and 8. Mean postoperative stay in the ICU was 3 +/- 2.9 days. The thoracic drains were removed after 5 +/- 2.3 days. Total hospital stay was 15 +/- 7.6 days. No hospital mortality was noted. Minor postoperative complications occurred in 2 cases. Shoulder function without pain allowed abduction up to 90 degrees. Function was decreased by 16 +/- 9 degrees compared to preoperative evaluation. No severe progressive scoliosis was noted.


Division of the LDM and its vascular supply after posterolateral thoracotomy results in a reduction of muscle mass. The shoulder girdle muscles offer an adequate alternative to fill residual empyema space with acceptable long-term results and restriction in shoulder motion. In all cases with bronchial fistula, bronchial stump closure with a pedicled subscapular muscle was an effective alternative operative technique.

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