The predisposing risk factors for sternal wound infection have been well delineated. However, the indications and comorbidity of patients who require cardiac surgery via the median sternotomy approach have changed over time and subsequently have changed the patient population presenting with sternal wound complications. These trends in cardiac surgery may require an adjustment of the plastic surgical approach and methods to optimize outcomes in the patient population.
A retrospective review was performed to identify patients who had undergone sternectomy or sternal debridement followed by flap coverage. A total of 93 cases performed between 1999 and 2004 examined to collect data about the initial presentation, operative procedure, and postoperative care of each patient. The data were then analyzed to identify population characteristics using logistic regression variables to determine univariate and adjusted (multivariable) measures of association with mortality.
Results of the review indicated that 53% of the patients were male and 47% were female, with a median age of 62 years. Preoperative comorbidities included 64% of the patients were over age 60, 43% had diabetes, 51% had hypertension, 13% had renal insufficiency, and 6% were transplant recipients. The method of reconstruction varied, but the majority were pectoralis advancement flaps. Of the patients who underwent debridement and reconstruction, there was a 16% 30-day mortality. Among these mortalities, the distribution was 33% (5/15) male and 66% (10/15) female.
Though the incidence of sternal wound problems is rare (about 1%-5%), there is a significant population of older, renal-insufficient, malnourished patients who present days or weeks after one would normally diagnose and treat a deep sternal wound infection who have a significant mortality rate. Appropriate identification of risk factors, preoperative management and timing for aggressive surgical treatment is required to maximize successful outcomes in this problematic patient population.