Treatment algorithm for post sternotomy wound infection – our experience

K. N. Manjunath1, M. S. Venkatesh, B. P. Sanmathi1, S. Shanthakumar1, G. Abhijit1, S. Anam1, S. Ravishankar2

1 Department of plastic and reconstructive surgery, Ramaiah Medical college, Bangalore, India

2 Department of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery, Ramaiah Medical college, Bangalore, India


Introduction: Median sternotomy is the most commonly used approach in open cardiac surgery. As in any other surgery, surgical site infections are a known phenomenon, but morbidity depends on the depth of infection. Superficial wound infections can be managed conservatively; however, deep sternal wound infections need an aggressive approach to prevent disastrous consequence like mediastinitis. Hence, this study was conducted with the aim to classify sternotomy wound infection and to develop a treatment algorithm for superficial and deep sternotomy wound infections. Material and methods: Between January 2016 to August 2021, 25 patients who had sternotomy wound infections were studied. These wound infections were classified as superficial or deep sternal wound infections. Results: Superficial wound infections underwent treatment with diluted vinegar dressings and deep infections underwent treatment with bilateral pectoralis major muscle advancement flaps. Patients were followed up till the wounds healed completely without complications. Patient characteristics, comorbidities, duration of treatment and outcomes of treatment were analyzed. Superficial sternal wound infection patients responded favorably to diluted vinegar dressings and deep sternal wound infection patients to pectoralis major muscle advancement flaps. Average time duration of healing for superficial and deep wound infections was 66.2 days and 18 days respectively. None of the patients had an increased severity of infection or re-dehiscence following treatment and during follow-up. Conclusion: Relatively conservative approach using diluted vinegar (1% acetic acid) dressing for superficial sternal wound infections was efficacious, whereas aggressive debridement and bilateral pectoralis major advancement muscle flaps for deep sternal wound infections are necessary for favorable outcomes. However, more studies are needed to ascertain this treatment algorithm.

Key words

open heart surgery – superficial sternal wound infection – deep sternal wound infection – 1% acetic acid – pectoralis major flap    

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