Sternal precautions after cardiac surgery

Are restrictive sternal precautions after cardiac surgery via median sternotomy really necessary?

If you, or someone you know, has ever had heart surgery, the surgeon may have accessed the heart by cutting the sternum vertically down the midline and spreading it apart. Afterwards, the 2 halves of the sternum are wired shut to encourage the cut halves of the sternum to stay pushed closely together while they heal.

This was probably followed up with advice to limit movements of the trunk and limbs to protect their sternum while it heals. To a large extent, these 'sternal precautions' were based on a fine logical argument but - like so many things we think we understand in the human body - it is always better to test such ideas to be sure they work as anticipated.

This suggests that strict sternal precautions may not be necessary. Advice to be guided by pain would certainly be a more convenient regimen for patients to follow.

Although further research will be conducted, this study may mark the begining of the end for strict sternal precautions after cardiac surgery.

> From: Katijjahbe et al., J Physiother 64 (2018) 97-106 . All rights reserved to the Australian Physiotherapy Association. Click here for the online summary.

Want to read deeper into this topic? Have a look at the free full text version of this article published in Journal of Physiotherapy!

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