Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Standard sternal precautions are helpful for patients who underwent recent heart surgery. The precautions will be beneficial in preventing pulling away dressings or scratching the breastbone before healing. The safety instructions are useful in preventing the occurrence of infections that spoil the healing process after the surgery.

Standard sternal precautions are necessary for patients who had open-heart surgery. Along with it, the patient requires the assistance of skilled services offered by the rehabilitation department. The services provided help in improving the strength, which over the period helps in increasing functional mobility.

What is a Sternal Precaution Method?

What is a Sternal Precaution Method?

A Standard sternal precautions method is a procedure that protects the breastbone after the open-heart operation. In the open-heart surgery, the surgeon divides the sternum to view the heart and the surrounding. After completing the operation, the surgeon will repair the split sternum to align the bones in their appropriate locations. The doctor uses a wire, which helps in keeping the divided portions together until there is a complete recovery.

Why Use the Sternal Precautions?

Sternal precautions are helpful in preventing the division of the breastbone. Separation of the sternum reduces the recovery period and choosing the precaution steps is useful in speeding the recovery process without affecting the divided portion of the sternum. The precautions are helpful in preventing the expansion of the surgical incision, keeping the skin closed, and avoid the formation of infections. Excessive pulling of the region causes dehiscence, which is a situation where the sternum bone separates. The opening poses a threat to the patient because of the formation of infections with ease.

Sternal Precautions

It is essential to follow the procedures as prescribed by the surgeon because the techniques involved in operating vary from one patient to another. It also changes in the post-operation monitoring and recovery activities. The following are involved in sternal precautions:

  • Not to lift weights above 5 or 8 pounds.
  • Avoid pulling or pushing using arms.
  • Stop reaching behind the back using both the arms.
  • Stop reaching the arms to the side.
  • Do not extend the arms overhead.

The precautions change according to the surgery involved and the facility that the patient participated. For instance, a few surgeons, allow the patient to extend a single arm above their head while others do not allow the same. It is critical to speak with the doctor to attain clear idea about the situation and the precaution steps.

Standard Sternal Precautions and Therapy

The physical therapist works with the patient in the rehabilitation center to help understand the sternal precautions. A patient will learn that it is difficult to move while maintaining the sternal precautions. It is here that the physical therapist offers the support and helps in teaching the movements while retaining the precautions. They include:

  • Rolling in the bed.
  • Using assisting devices such as a walker or quad cane.
  • Sitting on the bed.
  • Walking up using the stairs without pulling the railings.
  • Performing primary activities like brushing the hair and dressing.

Maintaining Standard Sternal Precautions

If the surgeon suggests for sternal precautions after surgery, then surgeon will also provide information about the continuity of the same. In general, healing of the breastbone requires 4 to 6 weeks. During this period, the doctor suggests the sternal precautions to maintain the recovery period and improve the condition. Regular monitoring will provide the opportunity for the doctor to tell when to stop the sternal precautions. Until then, it is necessary for the patient to participate in the sternal precautions.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: September 7, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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