To investigate whether modifying usual sternal precautions to make them less restrictive improves outcomes in people who had undergone cardiac surgery, this RCT allocated 70 participants:
- either to receive the traditional, restrictive sternal precautions (don't raise the arms above 90 degrees, don't lift objects more than 2 kg, don't put your hand behind your back to tuck your shirt in, don't push off the arm-rests of a chair when standing up, etc);
- or to less-restrictive advice to use the arms within pain limits.
Surprisingly, the 2 sets of sternal precautions didn't produce differences in the number of sternal complications, nor in how well the patients could function physically 4 and 12 weeks after the surgery. Pain, fear of movement, and quality of life also did not differ signficantly between the groups.
The between-group differences had quite narrow confidence intervals, suggesting that the lack of difference in outcomes between the groups is real and not merely due to lack of statistical power.