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Capital & Coast DHB Cardiothoracic Service

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A sternotomy, or "median" sternotomy, is a surgical incision along the front of the sternum. It is used in heart operations. Afterwards the sternum is closed again with small wires and the bone tissue knits together over several weeks. It is essential after a sternotomy that the patient avoids putting strain on the sternum by pushing or pulling with their arms when getting in and out of chairs for example. It is often beneficial to support the sternum with a cushion or towel when moving and coughing. While recovering from an operation requiring a sternotomy, nurses and physiotherapists will discuss with patients new techniques for moving around without straining their sternum.

Operations requiring a sternotomy almost always require chest drainage afterwards.

This page was last updated at 12:42PM on July 4, 2018.