Pardon our appearance while we renovate our website. The process may take up to a month and we respectfully request that any papers be submitted after that date. We will post a notice when the site is reopened. The Editorial staff at ePlasty thanks you for your patience and support.
Terms of use | Privacy Policy Home | Contact Us

<< Back
Print E-mail
ePlasty: Vol. 13
Sternal Wound Reconstruction With Omental Flap for Poststernotomy Mediastinitis
Laurel Karian, MD, and Mark Granick, MD

Division of Plastic Surgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark.

Correspondence: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


A 70-year-old woman with short stature and hypermastia underwent ascending aortic aneurysm repair with a prosthetic graft, complicated by postoperative mediastinitis and sternal dehiscence. She was treated with aggressive sternal debridement and negative pressure wound therapy for 1 week (Fig 1) prior to definitive closure with an omental transposition flap and eventual skin graft to the sternal wound. Her hospital course prior to sternal wound closure was also complicated by a deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolus (PE) for which she was treated with anticoagulation.

Figure 1. Mediastinal defect with exposed prosthetic aortic root graft.


1. What are the requirements for debriding sternal wounds complicated by mediastinitis?

2. What is the role of negative pressure wound therapy in postoperative mediastinitis?

3. What are the options for reconstruction of sternal wounds in cardiothoracic surgery patients?

4. Why was the omental flap the best option for this particular patient?


Mediastinitis, or deep sternal wound infection, is a feared life-threatening complication of cardiac surgery involving a midline sternotomy, with an in-hospital mortality rate as high as 31%.1,2 Treatment of sternal wounds complicated by mediastinitis involves debriding the affected sternum with partial or total sternectomy followed by immediate or delayed closure. Sternal debridement requires removal of all nonviable and infected soft tissue, all the affected sternum and the sternal wires, and other foreign material. It is essential to perform careful debridements to avoid injuring vital structures. In subacute wounds, the mediastinum is often healed to the underside of the sternum, making the right ventricle prone to tears during sternal debridement. Soft tissue and bone cultures should be obtained intraoperatively to determine appropriate antibiotics and extent of therapy. In complete sternectomy, the avascular costal cartilages are a potential source for infection and should be removed.

Negative pressure wound therapy is a highly effective treatment strategy for infected sternal wounds as a temporary dressing between debridements until the wound is clean enough for definitive closure.3 Negative pressure wound therapy acts to increase local blood flow, remove fluid and necrotic tissue, reduce bacterial count, accelerate wound contraction, and provide a moist environment for wound healing.4 Negative pressure wound therapy has been shown to reduce the time to definitive wound closure and the cost associated with prolonged hospital stay.3

Options for reconstruction of sternal wounds include a unilateral pectoralis major muscle “turnover” flap, unilateral or bilateral pectoralis major muscle or myocutaneous advancement flap, rectus abdominis muscle or myocutaneous flap, latissimus dorsi muscle or myocutaneous pedicled or microvascular flap, omental flap, or a combination of these.5,6 Use of one or more pectoralis flaps is generally the first line for reconstruction of sternal wounds.1 A rectus abdominis transposition flap may be ideal for defects in the lower third of the mediastinum but requires an intact ipsilateral internal mammary artery. Rectus flaps cannot be used if bilateral internal mammary arteries have been harvested for grafts.1 The omental transposition flap has been shown to be effective in sternal wound reconstruction, especially in irregular defects or when muscle flaps have failed.5 Omental flaps transposed through the diaphragm (Fig 2) are advantageous because of their robust blood supply, relatively long vascular pedicle enabling transfer to the anterior mediastinum, bulk, ability to cover irregular defects, and provision of lymphocytes and angiogenesic factors.1 They also readily accept a split-thickness skin graft without requiring an additional delay to wait for granulation tissue. A problem with omental flaps is the potential for patchy fat necrosis.

Figure 2. Laproscopic view of the omental flap being transposed through the diaphragm.
Figure 3. Mediastinal defect closed with omental flap and split-thickness skin graft.

This particular case involved an exposed prosthetic aortic root graft and suture line lying deep within the mediastinum. A pectoralis or other muscle flap would have not been adequate to reach and envelop the graft suture line in the posterior mediastinum. Omentum is more malleable than muscle and has a longer pedicle. It also has a minimal raw surface and donor site, which is helpful in reducing hematoma risk in anticoagulated patients. Consequently, the omentum was the best choice to mold into and fill this deep mediastinal defect.


1. Loop FD, Lytle BW, Cosgrove DM, et al. J. Maxwell Chamberlain memorial paper. Sternal wound complications after isolated coronary artery bypass grafting: early and late mortality, morbidity, and cost of care. Ann Thorac Surg. 1990;49(2):179-86; discussion 186-7.

2. Newman LS, Szczukowski LC, Bain RP, Perlino CA. Suppurative mediastinitis after open heart surgery. A case control study of risk factors. Chest. 1988;94(3):546-53.

3. Agarwal JP, Ogilvie M, Wu LC, et al. Vacuum-assisted closure for sternal wounds: a first-line therapeutic management approach. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2005;116(4):1035-40.

4. Scherer SS, Pietramaggiori G, Mathews JC, Prsa MJ, Huang S, Orgill DP. The mechanism of action of the vacuum-assisted closure device. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2008;122(3):786-97.

5. Jurkiewicz MJ, Bostwick J III, Hester TR, Bishop JB, Craver J. Infected median sternotomy wound. Successful treatment by muscle flaps. Ann Surg. 1980;191(6):738-44.

6. Schulman NH, Subramanian V. Sternal wound reconstruction: 252 consecutive cases. The Lenox Hill experience. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2004;114(1):44-8.

Journal ID: ePlasty Volume: 13
ISSN: 1937-5719 E-location ID: ic33
Publisher: Open Science Company, LLC Published: February 18, 2013

Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Digg! yahoobuzz! StumbleUpon! Reddit! Technorati!! Mixx! Free and Open Source Software News Google! Live! Facebook! Yahoo! Joomla Free PHP