Living Without A Sternum?

Question

Asked by Russ

Living Without A Sternum?

I have recently undergone a double-bypass surgery during which my sternum had to be removed because of an infection. The area is covered with my pectoral muscles. I am wondering how this is going to affect my quality of life, exercise routine, and life expectancy, but I'm unable to find information on line. Can you offer some advice?

Answer

I have had several patients who have had their sternum removed because of a post-operative infection after bypass surgery.   Infection of the bone is very difficult to elliminate and often antibiotics are not enough, necessitating the removal of the infected bone.   The opening is usually covered with a muscle flap keeping it's blood supply intact.   If successful and the infection is totally elliminated, then your chances for a long, healthy life are very good.

Things won't be totally normal.   This muscle flap might contract when you move your arm, and sometimes  it may even be pulled in a bit when you take a deep breath, but as time goes by, you will adjust to these changes and they will become second nature.   New surgical techniques have improved the cosmetic appearance greatly over the years, and this might be less of a factor for you also.

In short, the effect on longevity is limited by your heart disease.   Take care of your heart by exercising, eating a healthy, low fat diet, and take your medication.   Your will do fine without a sternum.