Infection following median sternotomy is a devastating and potentially life-threatening complication. The use of muscle flaps has become widely accepted as a mainstay in the treatment of these problems. We have previously described our successful use of a bipedicle muscle flap for reconstruction of sternal defects in 16 patients. In this paper, we describe follow-up in those patients as well as an evaluation of this procedure in an additional 26 patients. All records of those patients who had sternal reconstruction using the bipedicle pectoralis major-rectus abdominis flap were reviewed. Factors analyzed included the type of cardiac surgery, associated conditions, complications of surgery, and outcome. There were 42 patients in this group from 1989 to 1996. There were a variety of cardiac procedures represented. Associated conditions included diabetes, chronic hypertension, prolonged postcardiotomy hypotension, prior radiation therapy, pulmonary failure, and steroid use. There were no deaths in this series. There was one flap failure, one persistent infection, one pneumothorax, and one hernia in this series. Three patients developed hematomas after surgery. The most common complication was a skin slough, which occurred in nine patients. This technique provides a large flap that can fill the entire mediastinum. The dissection is rapid, and the complication rate compares favorably to that of other methods.
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