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Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting via Sternotomy in Conscious Patients


The application of high thoracic epidural anesthesia (TEA) as an adjunct to general anesthesia is increasingly being used for coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) with extracorporeal circulation. Recent developments in beating heart techniques rendered the sole use of TEA in conscious patients possible, and have been reported for single-vessel beating heart CABG via lateral thoracotomy. For multi-vessel revascularization, the heart is usually approached via sternotomy; therefore, the sole use of TEA was applied in awake patients who underwent CABG via sternotomy. A total of 7 patients scheduled for awake coronary artery bypass grafting (ACAB) received TEA via an epidural catheter placed at the levels of T1–2 or T2–3, respectively. Total arterial myocardial revascularization was performed after partial lower sternotomy. Besides standard monitoring, anesthetic levels were determined using an epidural scoring scale for arm movements (ESSAM). While 6 patients were awake and spontaneously breathing during the entire procedure, one patient had to be intubated intraoperatively because of respiratory distress caused by phrenic nerve palsy. Hemodynamics were stable throughout the operation. No significant arterial hypercarbia occurred. All patients rated TEA as “good” or “excellent.” We could demonstrate that the single use of TEA for CABG via sternotomy was feasible and that the patients felt well, were painfree, and remained hemodynamically stable. High patient satisfaction in our small and highly selected cohort can be reported. Because beating heart surgery in a conscious patient still carries a significant risk, further randomized controlled trials are mandatory to definitively evaluate the role of sole TEA in cardiac surgery.

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Meininger, D., Neidhart, G., Bremerich, D. et al. Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting via Sternotomy in Conscious Patients. World J. Surg. 27, 534–538 (2003).

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  • Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
  • Phrenic Nerve
  • Beating Heart
  • High Patient Satisfaction
  • Thoracic Epidural Anesthesia