A sternum fracture is a break to the breastbone. A sternal fracture is most often caused by a direct impact to the bone, at the front of the chest. This is most frequent in road traffic accidents.
Sternum fracture symptoms
Symptoms of a fractured sternum include a sudden onset of pain at the front of the chest after an impact or fall of some kind. Pain is usually well localised and doe not radiate. It will be very tender to touch the fracture area and bruising may start to appear after a few hours. Up to 20% of patients may demonstrate breathing difficulties.
Fractured sternums most frequently occur during road traffic accidents. A fractured sternum may also occur during chest compression as performed during CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Fractures of the breastbone may also happen with considerably less force and have been seen in Golfers and weightlifters previously. Older people with Osteoporosis may also be more at risk.
Whilst a fracture is a common injury which is often straightforward to treat, a sternal fracture should be examined thoroughly and put under observation for other complications. These may include pulmonary and cardiac contusions (bruising of the lungs or heart) or damage to the aorta (main artery from the heart). If the fractured part of the bone has been displaced, this is more likely to cause further complications.
Treatment of a sternum fracture which has not been displaced generally involves rest and the use of painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications. If the bone fragment has become displaced, a surgical procedure may be required to re-align the two bone pieces and possibly fix them with pins or screws.