Muscle flaps or omental flap in the management of deep sternal wound infection

Jan J. van Wingerden, Oren Lapid, Piet W. Boonstra, Bas A.J.M. de Mol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


The primary question addressed was whether muscle flaps (MFs) offer a significant advantage over an omental flap (OF) in the management of deep sternal wound infection (DSWI) following cardiovascular surgery in terms of outcome (morbidity and mortality). Altogether, 333 citations (from PubMed and EMBASE and using a manual search, without language restriction) were identified using the reported strategy. Focusing on publications from single institutions with experience with both types of flap in the treatment of DSWI, 16 studies represented the best evidence on the topic. The author, journal, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes, results and study weaknesses were tabulated. These 16 observational studies covered 1046 patients, and all reported mortality rates. Unadjusted data from five of six studies investigating a possible association between mortality and flap type suggested a higher mortality rate following reconstruction with MFs. A meta-analysis of all six studies indicates a slight, but not significant, survival advantage for reconstruction with an OF [overall relative risk 1.29 (95% confidence interval 0.58-2.88)]. Thirteen studies reported on the number of individual postoperative complications for a total of 964 patients. Data, unadjusted for potentially confounding surgical factors, on complications following flap closure, such as complete or partial flap loss, haematoma, arm or shoulder weakness and chronic chest wall pain, suggested that these complications were more common following MF reconstruction. Four studies evaluated patients with recurrent sternal wound infection (n = 521). Two of these were associated with a high incidence (> 17.5%) of re-exploration for recurrent sternal infection following MF reconstruction. The most commonly reported complications following an OF were abdominal or diaphragmatic hernias, with an incidence of < 5%. We conclude that the weight of current evidence is insufficient to prove the superiority of reconstruction with MFs to a laparotomy-harvested, OF in the treatment of DSWI. The results suggest that use of the omentum may be associated with lower mortality and fewer complications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-187
Number of pages9
JournalInteractive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Chest wall
  • Mediastinal infection
  • Outcomes (surgery complications)
  • Sternotomy
  • Surgical flaps
  • Wound infection (mediastinum)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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