Reduction of sternal infection by application of topical vancomycin

T. J. Vander Salm, O. N. Okike, M. K. Pasque, A. T. Pezzella, R. Lew, V. Traina, R. Mathieu

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Sternal or mediastinal infection after heart operations occurs infrequently but carries a high cost in money, morbidity, and mortality. At our hospital, Staphylococcus nonaureus causes most of these infections and is uniformly sensitive to vancomycin. In a prospective study of 416 patients having cardiac operations, randomized by hospital record number, topical vancomycin was applied to the cut sternal edges in 223 patients (group V) and was omitted in the control group (C) of 193 patients. The vancomycin was applied in a hemostatic paste of topical thrombin and powdered absorbable gelatin; in the control group only the hemostatic paste was applied. All patients received prophylactic systemic antibiotics for 2 days. Sternal infection occurred in one patient in group V (0.45%) and in seven patients in group C (3.6%) (p = 0.02). Infection also correlated with longer operative times (p = 0.027). By multivariate testing, vancomycin (p = 0.013) and shorter operative times (p = 0.014) independently predicted reduced infection rates. In the one patient with an infection in group V, Staphylococcus aureus was cultured; this organism was also cultured in two patients in group C, with Staphylococcus nonaureus being the culprit in the other five patients with sternal infections in group C. Topical vancomycin applied to the cut sternal edges reduces the risk of postoperative sternal infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-622
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1989


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