Current presentation and optimal surgical management of sternoclavicular joint infections

Howard K. Song, T. Sloane Guy, Larry R. Kaiser, Joseph B. Shrager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background. Infection of the sternoclavicular joint is unusual, and treatment of this entity has not been standardized. We sought to characterize the current presentation and optimal management of this disease. Methods. We retrospectively reviewed the records of the last 7 patients undergoing operation for suppurative infections of the sternoclavicular joint at this institution. Patients were interviewed regarding upper extremity function after formal joint resection. Results. Predisposing factors were common and included diabetes mellitus (n = 2), clavicular fracture (n = 1), human immunodeficiency virus infection (n = 1), immunosuppression (n = 1), and pustular skin disease (n = 1). All patients presented with local symptoms including clavicular mass and tenderness. Diagnosis and evaluation were facilitated by cross-sectional imaging. Organisms isolated included Staphylococcus aureus, group G streptococcus, and Proteus and Propionibacterium species. Antibiotic therapy and simple drainage and debridement were generally ineffective, leading to recurrence of infection in 5 of 6 patients treated initially in this manner. Six patients were treated with resection of the sternoclavicular joint and involved portions of first or second ribs with soft tissue coverage by advancement flap from the ipsilateral pectoralis major muscle. Response to this therapy was excellent, with cure in all patients, no wound complications, and excellent upper extremity function at long-term follow-up. Conclusions. Aggressive surgical management including resection of the sternoclavicular joint and involved ribs with pectoralis flap closure would appear to be the preferred treatment for all but the most minor infections of the sternoclavicular joint. This approach has minimal impact on upper extremity function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-431
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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