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Scand J Surg. 2013;102(1):3-8.

Kuopio treatment strategy after deep sternal wound infection.

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Department of Surgery, Kuopio University Central Hospital, Kuopio, Finland.



Infection of sternotomy wound is a rare potentially fatal complication because of the risk for deep sternal infection. Current treatment comprises antibiotics, debridement, negative pressure wound therapy and sometimes transposition of muscle or omental flaps to fill the anterior mediastinal dead space.


The management of 60 consecutive deep sternotomy wound infections is reviewed. The one stage treatment was mostly chosen. In 5 patients after debridement, negative pressure wound therapy was used before flap reconstruction. Fifty-seven patients were rewired and 3 patients had sternectomy. The choice of the flap was based mainly on anatomic location of a sternal wound defect and also on which grafts been used in cardiac operation.


The unilateral turnover split pectoralis major flap was the choice for 50 patients. In 8 patients latissimus dorsi flap was used. Rectus abdominis was used as a standalone flap in 4 patients and in combination with pectoralis major in one. All patients survived after deep sternal wound infection. In only 33 patients the recovery was totally uneventful. In the remaining 27 patients there were one or more complications. Not a single flap was lost completely, but due to partial flap necrosis, a redo reconstruction was needed in 3 patients. Negative pressure wound therapy was used after flap reconstruction in eight patients with incomplete post-flap healing to prepare for wound revision and split thickness skin graft.


A structured approach including both cardiac and plastic surgery in case of deep sternal wound infection is recommended. A single stage surgery with the help of muscle flap reconstruction is our standard treatment. With our protocol, we have been able to keep the mortality low.

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