Case Report

A Simple and Safe Technique for Manipulation of Retrosternal Dissection in the Nuss Procedure

Masahiko Noguchi, MD, PhD; Shoji Kondoh, MD, PhD; Kenya Fujita, MD, PhD


ePlasty. 2014;14 

In This Article


In a study of 167 children, Castellani reported that 4.2% of patients sustained major complications, including intraoperative heart perforation.[5] In 2009, Bouchard reviewed 4 cases of cardiac injury during the Nuss procedure. Since then, the role of thoracoscopy has been well established. However, cases of cardiac perforation persist despite its use.[1] He suggested that different approaches could also be used to guide passage of the pectus dissector in the anterior mediastinum. In our institute, we had experienced 2 cases of pericardiac perforation and 1 case of injury of the internal thoracic artery during retrosternal dissection with ordinary introducer under the thoracoscopy before the introduction of our new technique.

Most commonly, for a better result, the bar is placed under the most concave portion of the sternum in Nuss procedure. However, in this area, a fat pad, so-called the fatty falls of pleura, exists on the pericardium. Major arteries run in and around the fat pad. The internal thoracic artery runs anterior to the fat pad. The musculophrenic artery that is the branch from the internal thoracic artery runs through in the fat pad (Figure 3). Therefore, precise dissection is required to prevent these vasculatures from injuries. Moreover, the pericardium is tightly attached to the diaphragm at this portion, blunt dissection blindly would be more challenging and risky compared to the other part of the anterior mediastinum.

Figure 3.

Transverse sections showing the paths of a dissector in our new technique. A dissector goes through the route (a) when the bar is inserted rostrally to the bifurcation of MPA, while a dissector takes the route (b) when the bar is to be placed caudally to the bifurcation of MPA. F indicates fatty falls of pleura; ITA, internal thoracic artery; MPA, musculophrenic artery; P, pericardium; S, caudal portion of the sternum; SEA, superior epigastric artery.

In the Nuss procedure, the introducer is regularly used for the dissection. The introducer is inserted from the highest point of the anterior chest wall and the dissection is carried out concurrent with elevation of the concave thorax. These conditions make the precise manipulations difficult and lead to inadequate dissection. Our new approach overcomes these problems. In comparison to the traditional method, our procedure makes insertions at more posterior points. As a result, we can keep the tip of the dissector in view until it reaches the contralateral insertion point of the bar, which in turn makes it possible to guide the dissector in a safer direction. In addition to the increased visibility, the manipulation capability of the dissector is also improved in our method. Using this approach, we are able to precisely determine both the layer and the area of the dissection level. In the case that the bar is placed cephalad to the bifurcation of the musculophrenic artery, we prefer to dissect just above the pericardia, which is considered beneficial for reducing intraoperative injury of both the cardiac and internal thoracic vessels (Figure 3a). On the contrary, when the bar is placed caudally to the bifurcation of the musculophrenic artery, we dissect between the superior epigastric artery and the musculophrenic artery (Figure 3b). In the case of extremely severe asymmetry, the insertion point of the dissector becomes more posterior and difficult to manipulate. In such cases, we use a vacuum chest wall lifter at the same time to ensure definite and safe dissection. It is noteworthy that we have not had any complications over 150 patients since we started this new technique.