Sternal Plating for High-Risk Cases

Secures the Breastbone and Significantly Reduces the Likelihood of Post-Operative Infection

It's necessary to cut the sternum (breastbone) to perform an open-heart operation. After the surgery is complete, surgeons typically rejoin the sternum by sewing it shut with wires. This closure technique works well for most patients, but for some patients--such as those who have had multiple open-heart procedures, the elderly, or other high-risk cases--the wire closure technique may not be effective. If the sternum does not heal correctly, patients become susceptible to serious infections.

Sternal plating photo Small titanium plates stabilize the sternum after open-heart surgery. View another image of sternal plating.

Recognizing a problem, University of Chicago plastic surgeons, cardiac surgeons, and physician assistants worked together to develop and refine a new technique--called sternal plating--that reinforces the sternum after heart surgery. Here, surgeons attach specially designed titanium plates to the sternum to fix the edges of the sternum securely. Since adopting this technique to close the sternum in high-risk patients, our surgeons have observed a dramatic decrease in the number of patients who develop post-operative infections. Other benefits of sternal plating include less pain after surgery, easier breathing, and less time spent in the hospital.

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