Surgical management of sternoclavicular joint infections

Harold M. Burkhart, Claude Deschamps, Mark S. Allen, Francis C. Nichols, Daniel L. Miller, Peter C. Pairolero, Malcolm M. DeCamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Objective: Sternoclavicular joint infections are rare, and their management is controversial. We reviewed our experience with the surgical management of this condition. Methods: From August 1988 to August 2001, 26 patients (16 men and 10 women) were treated surgically for infected sternoclavicular joints. The median age was 56 years (range, 20-77 years). Patients who had a recent previous median sternotomy were excluded. Results: All patients were symptomatic. Pain was present in 21 patients, swelling in 14 patients, fever in 11 patients, and erythema in 9 patients. Associated conditions included recent or ongoing infections in other areas in 12 patients (pneumonia in 4 patients, multiple joint infections in 2 patients, and other in 6 patients) and an indwelling central venous catheter in 1 patient. Five patients had a history of trauma in the region of the joint. Four patients had prior joint incision and drainage. Unilateral sternoclavicular joint resection was done in 18 patients, bilateral resection in 2 patients, and incision and drainage with debridement in 6 patients. Wound culture results were positive in 24 patients, and the most common organism isolated was Staphylococcus aureus (n = 17). Eleven patients had transposition of the ipsilateral pectoralis major muscle to obliterate residual space and to reconstruct the chest wall. Two (7.7%) patients had complications, and 1 died (operative mortality, 3.8%). Follow-up was complete in all 25 operative survivors and ranged from 2 months to 10 years (median, 25 months). Twenty-one patients are alive without symptoms, infection, or limitations in range of motion. Four patients have died as a result of causes unrelated to their joint infections. Conclusions: Symptomatic sternoclavicular joint infections often require surgical intervention. Surgical resection combined with muscle transposition provides effective long-term outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)945-949
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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