Major bleeding complicating deep sternal infection after cardiac surgery

Alon Yellin, Yael Refaely, Michael Paley, David Simansky

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    35 Scopus citations


    Objectives: This study was undertaken to determine the incidence and outcome of major bleeding complicating deep sternal infection after cardiac surgery, to identify predisposing factors and means of prevention, and to clarify management options. Methods: This was a retrospective study of 10,863 consecutive patients, of whom 213 (2.18%) acquired deep sternal infection, With 43 additional referrals, the total number of patients with deep sternal infection was 280. Deep sternal infection was managed by a two-stage scheme. Major bleeding was considered to be bleeding that occurred during or after operation for deep sternal infection from the heart, great vessels, or grafts, or bleeding requiring urgent exploration. Results: Fifteen patients (5,36%) had major bleeding. The incidences of deep sternal infection and bleeding were highest among patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting, Thirteen patients had underlying diseases (type 2 diabetes in 9 cases). Deep sternal infection was diagnosed a median of 15 days after reoperation. Bleeding originated from the right ventricle in 9 patients. In 4 patients bleeding was iatrogenic during surgery for wire removal (n = 2) or reconstruction (n = 2). In 11 it occurred 15 minutes to 15 days (median 2 days) after wire removal, as a result of shearing forces in 7 cases and of infection only in 4 cases. Three patients died immediately. The other 12 were operated on, 6 with complete cardiopulmonary bypass, 2 with femoral cannulation, and 4 without cardiopulmonary bypass. The immediate mortality was 26.7%; the overall mortality was 53.3%. The median length of hospitalization of surviving patients was 38 days. Conclusions: The probability of development of major bleeding in patients with deep sternal infection was unrelated to the primary operation. The mortality associated with this complication was high. Meticulous technique during wire removal may decrease the risk of major bleeding. The impacts of cardiopulmonary bypass and of the technique and timing of sternal reconstruction remain undetermined.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)554-558
    Number of pages5
    JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - 1 Mar 2003

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Surgery
    • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
    • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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