Incidence of Sternal Wound Infection After Reexploration in the Intensive Care Unit and the Use of Local Gentamycin

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Abstract

Background.

Reoperation for bleeding is a known emergency complication after cardiac operations. When performed in the intensive care unit (ICU), sterility issues arise. Our aim was to examine the incidence of sternal wound infection (SWI) after reexploration in the ICU for bleeding with routine use of local gentamycin.

Methods.

From January 2003 until December 2009, 4,863 patients underwent cardiac operations through a median sternotomy at our institution. We conducted a retrospective database review identifying all patients who required reoperations. The occurrence of SWI in this group was compared with the general cardiac surgical population. Reoperations for bleeding during this period were conducted routinely in the ICU with prophylactic application of a gentamycin sponge between the sternal halves before closure in all cases.

Results.

Reexploration for bleeding was necessary in 302 patients (6.2%), and SWI occurred in 11, for a rate of 3.6%. SWI occurred in 174 of the 4,561 non-reexplored patients, for a similar rate of 3.8% (p> 0.9). These values are similar to our overall rate of SWI of 3.8% (n = 185) in the total cohort of 4,863 patients.

Conclusions.

The incidence of SWI was not increased in our study group after emergency reoperation for bleeding in the ICU after the local use of gentamycin. Our data suggest that reexploration in an ICU setting for bleeding does not pose a sterility challenge and that life-threatening delays due to transfer to the operating theater may be avoided.

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