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Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2012 Jul;15(1):42-4. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivs135. Epub 2012 Apr 11.

Wide sternal retraction may impede internal mammary artery graft flow and reduce myocardial function during off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting: presentation of two cases.

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The Intervention Centre, Oslo University Hospital Rikshospitalet, Oslo, Norway.


The internal mammary artery (IMA) is routinely used for grafting of the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD), providing good flow to the anterior left ventricle (LV) wall. Impeded IMA-to-LAD flow may result in myocardial ischaemia and haemodynamic deterioration. From a study population, we describe two incidents where myocardial ischaemia was observed during off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG), with a confirmed reduction in the IMA-to-LAD flow in one patient. In patient no. 1, normal IMA flow was assessed by transit-time flow measurement after a complete IMA-to-LAD anastomosis. The anterior LV wall thickening was monitored continuously by epicardial ultrasonic transducers. Normal wall thickening was confirmed after IMA grafting. During a wide sternal opening for circumflex grafting the anterior wall motion displayed an ischaemic pattern, with reduced systolic and increased post-systolic wall thickening. IMA flow was reduced simultaneously. When easing the sternal opening, IMA flow normalized, as did the motion pattern in the anterior LV wall. In patient no. 2, similar changes in wall thickening occurred during a wide sternal opening after IMA-to-LAD grafting. When easing the retractor, the wall thickening normalized. It is important for the surgeon to be aware of this possible cause of myocardial ischaemia, with a risk of subsequent haemodynamic deterioration. This may not only be of great importance during off-pump CABG, but can also be significant for successful weaning from the cardiopulmonary bypass machine.

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