Advances in managing the noninfected open chest after cardiac surgery: Negative-pressure wound therapy

Faisal G. Bakaeen, Osama Haddad, Mudathir Ibrahim, Selena R. Pasadyn, Emídio Germano, Salvior Mok, M. Scott Halbreiner, Kenneth R. McCurry, Douglas R. Johnston, Stephanie L. Mick, José L. Navia, Eric E. Roselli, Nicholas G. Smedira, Edward G. Soltesz, Michael Z. Tong, Per Wierup, A. Marc Gillinov, Lars G. Svensson, Penny L. Houghtaling, Eugene H. BlackstoneGösta B. Pettersson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective of this study was to compare safety and clinical effectiveness of negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT) with traditional wound therapy for managing noninfected open chests with delayed sternal closure after cardiac surgery. Methods: From January 2000 to July 2015, 452 of 47,325 patients who underwent full sternotomy left the operating room with a noninfected open chest (0.96%), managed using NPWT in 214—with frequency of use rapidly increasing to near 100%—and traditionally in 238. Predominant indications for open-chest management were uncontrolled coagulopathy or hemodynamic compromise on attempted chest closure. Weighted propensity-score matching was used to assess in-hospital complications and time-related survival. Results: NPWT and traditionally managed patients had similar high-risk preoperative profiles. Most underwent reoperations (63% of the NPWT group and 57% of the traditional group), and 21% versus 25% were emergency procedures. Reexplorations for bleeding were less common with NPWT versus traditional wound therapy (n = 63 [29%] vs 104 [44%], P =.002). Median duration of open-chest to definitive sternal closure was 3.5 days for NPWT versus 3.1 for traditionally managed patients (P[log rank] =.07). Seven patients (3.3%) were converted from NPWT to traditional therapy because of hemodynamic intolerance and 6 (2.5%) from traditional to NPWT. No NPWT-related cardiovascular injuries occurred. Among matched patients, NPWT was associated with better early survival (61% vs 44% at 6 months; P =.02). Conclusions: NPWT is safe and effective for managing noninfected open chests after cardiac surgery. By facilitating open-chest management and potentially improving outcomes, it has become our therapy of choice and perhaps has lowered our threshold for leaving the chest open after cardiac surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1891-1903.e9
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019


  • coagulopathy
  • hemodynamics
  • propensity score
  • survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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