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Healing hearts.

I had open-heart surgery about 18 months ago. Recently, the wires used to close my breastbone had to be removed after they surfaced and became annoying. Is there another way to secure the sternum?

Ernest Fromback

Exton, Pennsylvania

Wires remain the best choice to hold the sternum together for healing after open-heart surgery. They usually stay in place for life and don't cause any problems. Sometimes, however, wires surface in particularly slim people with little subcutaneous fat over the sternum. Perhaps that explains your unfortunate experience.

Another way to speed healing of the breastbone has to do with the initial incision rather than how it's secured. A sternal incision is generally preferred because it provides good visibility of the heart and blood vessels and heals with less pain than an incision between the ribs (a thoracotomy). But cardiac surgeons today often incise two-thirds of the sternum rather than its entire length, which makes healing even easier.

BY Douglas Zipes, M.D.

Douglas P. Zipes, M.D., an internationally acclaimed cardiologist, professor, author, and inventor, is an authority on pacing and electrophysiology (rhythms of the heart).

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Title Annotation:Heart Beat; open-heart surgery
Author:Zipes, Douglas
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2011
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