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Surgical Exposure of the Left Subclavian Artery by Median Sternotomy and Left Superaclavicular Extension

Hajarizadeh, Homayon MD; Rohrer, Michael J. MD; Cutler, Bruce S. MD

The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care: July 1996 - Volume 41 - Issue 1 - p 136-139
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Objective  To evaluate the feasibility of surgical exposure of the full length of the left subclavian artery using a median sternotomy and left supraclavicular extension.

Design  Anatomic study of five cadavers, and case review of four patients with blunt trauma to the proximal left subclavian artery.

Materials and Methods  A median sternotomy with left supraclavicular extension was performed on five cadavers and four patients. The depth of various portions of the subclavian artery was measured. Photographs of the dissections were used to document anatomic relationships and to serve as a basis for pen and ink drawings. The hospital records of four patients in which this exposure was used were reviewed for operative details.

Measurements and Main Results  The left subclavian artery was readily exposed from its origin on the aortic arch to its termination as the axillary artery in all cadaver dissections, including one who was more than 300% ideal body weight. The first portion of the subclavian artery lay at an average wound depth of 6.0 cm, with a mean length of 4.7 cm. The same surgical approach was used for the care of four patients who sustained blunt trauma to the first portion of the left subclavian artery and permitted expeditious control and excellent exposure for placement of a proximal subclavian interposition graft in two, a proximal subclavian to axillary artery graft in the third, and resection and end-to-end anastomosis in the fourth.

Conclusions  Median sternotomy with left supraclavicular extension provides rapid, safe, and reliable exposure of all portions of the left subclavian artery without the morbidity associated with clavicular resection, thoracotomy, or a "trapdoor" incision. Furthermore, the ability to perform this procedure in the supine position allows access to the abdominal cavity, the neck, and the extremities, which often require concomitant operative intervention in a patient with multiple injuries.

From the Division of Vascular Surgery, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester, Massachussets.

Address for reprints: Bruce S. Cutler, MD, Division of Vascular Surgery, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655.

© Williams & Wilkins 1996. All Rights Reserved.