Rigid Sternal Fixation Versus Modified Wire Technique for Poststernotomy Closures: A Retrospective Cost Analysis

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Rigid sternal fixation (RSF) has been shown to reduce sternal wound complications in high-risk patients. However, the higher initial cost continues to deter its use. This study evaluates the cost of caring for high-risk sternotomy patients who underwent RSF compared with those who underwent sternal closure with a modified wire technique (MWT).


A retrospective single institution review of high-risk patients who underwent MWT (n = 45) and RSF (n = 30) for primary sternal closure from 2006 to 2009 was conducted. Total hospital cost, revenue, and net cost associated with surgery and subsequent care were analyzed.


Overall rates of wound dehiscence and wound infections (superficial and deep) were higher in MWT patients (n = 14, 13, and 7, respectively) than RSF patients (n = 3, 2, and 0, respectively; P < 0.05). Modified wire technique patients also required more operations (mean ± SEM: 0.4 ± 0.1 vs 0.1 ± 0.1; P = 0.045), and had longer follow-up time (55.0 ± 9.1 vs 13.4 ± 10.5 days; P = 0.004). Overall, the hospital suffered a greater loss caring for MWT patients (US $18,903 ± 2,160) than RSF patients (US $8,935 ± 2,647). Modified wire technique patients who developed a complication had higher costs associated with their operative hospitalization, outpatient care, and home health than RSF patients (total net loss: US $41,436 ± 7327 vs US $10,612 ± 4,258; P = 0.034).


In high-risk patients, RSF is associated with lower rates of infections, including the “never event” mediastinitis, compared with MWT. Moreover, despite the initial higher cost, RSF affords an overall lower cost of care compared with MWT in patients at high-risk for developing sternal complications.

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