Following stage 1 palliation, delayed sternal closure may be used as a technique to enhance thoracic compliance but may also prolong the length of stay and increase the risk of infection.
We reviewed all neonates undergoing stage 1 palliation at our institution between 2010 and 2017 to describe the effects of delayed sternal closure.
During the study period, 193 patients underwent stage 1 palliation, of whom 12 died before an attempt at sternal closure. Among the 25 patients who underwent primary sternal closure, 4 (16%) had sternal reopening within 24 hours. Among the 156 infants who underwent delayed sternal closure at 4 [3,6] days post-operatively, 11 (7.1%) had one or more failed attempts at sternal closure. Patients undergoing primary sternal closure had a shorter duration of mechanical ventilation and intensive care unit length of stay. Patients who failed delayed sternal closure had a longer aortic cross-clamp time (123±42 versus 99±35 minutes, p=0.029) and circulatory arrest time (39±28 versus 19±17 minutes, p=0.0009) than those who did not fail. Failure of delayed sternal closure was also closely associated with Technical Performance Score: 1.3% of patients with a score of 1 failed sternal closure compared with 18.9% of patients with a score of 3 (p=0.0028). Among the haemodynamic and ventilatory parameters studied, only superior caval vein saturation following sternal closure was different between patients who did and did not fail sternal closure (30±7 versus 42±10%, p=0.002). All patients who failed sternal closure did so within 24 hours owing to hypoxaemia, hypercarbia, or haemodynamic impairment.
When performed according to our current clinical practice, sternal closure causes transient and mild changes in haemodynamic and ventilatory parameters. Monitoring of SvO2 following sternal closure may permit early identification of patients at risk for failure.