The standard surgical approach for closed heart procedures in small infants and children is to use a posterolateral thoracotomy incision, which results in the division of the latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior muscles. The aim of our study was to determine the frequency and type of musculoskeletal deformities in children undergoing surgery with this approach for congenital cardiac disease.
We included 49 children, 28 boys and 21 girls, in the study. Their mean age was 10.2 ± 4.8 years, the mean age at the time of surgery was 3.8 ± 4.0 years, and they were evaluated at an average of 6 years after the thoracotomy. Of the patients, 94% had various musculoskeletal deformities. Scoliosis was observed in 15 patients (31%) but only in two patients did the curves exceed 25 degrees. Of these patients, three-fifths had aortic coarctation. Elevation of the shoulder was seen in 61%, winged scapula in 77%; while 14% had asymmetry of the thoracic wall due to the atrophy of the serratus anterior muscle. Deformity of the thoracic cage was observed in 18%; and 63% had asymmetry of the nipples.
Thus, we found that musculoskeletal deformities are frequent after thoracotomies in children with congenital cardiac disease. Patients who have undergone such procedures for cardiac or noncardiac surgery should be followed until their skeletal maturation is complete. Techniques sparing the serratus anterior and latissimus dorsi muscles should be preferred. These adverse effects of thoracotomy may be another reason for using interventional procedures in these cases.
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