Muscle-splitting posterolateral thoracotomy: A novel technique

Sreekumar Subramanian, Kevin D. Halow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose In an effort to decrease the morbidity of a standard posterolateral thoracotomy, numerous muscle-sparing approaches have been developed. However, these incisions have been limited by the need for excessive muscle retraction with resultant neuropraxia, difficulty with exposure, and postoperative wound seroma. We report our results of a novel muscle-splitting thoracotomy incision, which affords excellent exposure without significant morbidity. Methods We conducted a retrospective chart review of 37 consecutive patients who underwent "muscle-splitting" thoracotomy from June 1997 to June 1998. The technique, which involves a bidirectional spread of the latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior muscles, was performed by the same attending surgeon in all patients. Results There were 22 male and 15 female patients, aged 26 to 81 (mean, 58), with a body mass index ranging from 18 to 40 kg/m2 (mean, 25 kg/m2). Procedures included lobectomy/segmentectomy (19), wedge resection (5), pneumonectomy (2), Belsey IV fundoplication (5), Ivor-Lewis esophagogastrectomy (1), T8/T9 thoracic exposure (1), and miscellaneous thoracic cases (4). Operative time ranged from 90 minutes to 420 minutes (mean, 176), which was comparable with similar procedures through a standard incision. No patients required conversion to a muscle-cutting thoracotomy. Conclusions Our technique of muscle-splitting posterolateral thoracotomy appears to provide excellent operative exposure and to avoid problems seen with current muscle-sparing incisions. A prospective, randomized trial to compare this technique with a standard thoracotomy incision would be useful in determining its viability as an alternative thoracic approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-77
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Muscle-splitting posterolateral thoracotomy
  • Technique
  • Thoracic incision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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