Management of a floating sternum after repair of pectus excavatum

K. Prabhakaran, C. N. Paidas, J. A. Haller, W. Pegoli, P. M. Colombani, P. Glick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine the authors' experience with patients who have floating sternum after correction of pectus excavatum via the classical Ravitch procedure. A floating sternum is defined as a sternum in which the only attachment to the chest wall is its superior (cranial) border, and in which the body is secured only by the manubrium and whatever lateral and inferior fibrous bands are present. Typically, a floating sternum is caused by either extensive resection of the costal cartilages and perichondrium during correction of pectus excavatum or failure of proper regrowth of these cartilages. Methods: The authors retrospectively assessed the charts of all patients diagnosed with a floating sternum noting age at original correction of pectus excavatum, time from original correction of pectus excavatum to diagnosis of floating sternum, age at correction of floating sternum, complaints before stabilization of the sternum, methods of repair, and postoperative complications. Results: Between July 1993 and June 1999, floating sternum was diagnosed in 7 patients. The mean age of patients who underwent operative correction of a floating sternum was 28.9 years (range, 16 to 42 years). The mean time interval between original correction of pectus excavatum, or "redo," and diagnosis of a floating sternum was 9.9 years (range, 2 to 20 years). Complaints before correction of the floating sternum included sternal pain and instability, exercise intolerance, and difficulty breathing. Operative repair consisted of mobilizing the lateral and inferior edges of the sternum, detaching the fibrous perichondrium, performing anterior sternal osteotomies, and finally supporting the sternum with substernal Adkins struts. All 7 patients had successful stabilization of the sternum. Two of 7 patients underwent 2 procedures to successfully stabilize the sternum. One patient has Adkins struts still in place because of hematopoetic malignancy. Six of 7 patients are now without symptoms. Conclusions: A floating sternum is a morbid phenomenon that may manifest many years after the original procedure. It can cause significant sternal pain, chest wall instability, and respiratory dysfunction, which are the hallmark indications for correction. Repair of a floating sternum can be accomplished successfully.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-164
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Complications
  • Floating sternum
  • Pectus excavatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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