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Sternal Precautions

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Apr 2, 2024.

What are sternal precautions?

Sternal precautions are used to help protect your sternum (breastbone) after open chest surgery. Wires are placed during surgery to hold the sternum together as it heals. Sternal precautions help prevent the wires from cutting through the sternum. The precautions also help prevent the sternum from coming apart from an injury, and prevent pain and bleeding. You may need to use the precautions for up to 12 weeks after surgery. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions based on the type of surgery you had. It is important to follow the instructions carefully. An injury to the healing sternum can be life-threatening.

What are some general sternal precautions?

Start slowly and do more as you get stronger. Pain medicine might make it harder for you to know when to slow down or be careful. Stop immediately if you hear a crunch or pop in your sternum.

How do I care for my surgery wound?

Always wash your hands before you care for your wound. Wash your wound as directed. Do not rub the wound as you wash or dry the area. Pat the area dry with a clean towel. Change the bandages as directed and when they get wet or dirty.

Do not smoke:

Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it more difficult to heal. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.

Call 911 for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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