Sternum Fracture

Sternum injury

A Sternum fracture is a break of the breastbone in the middle of the chest. In more severe cases it dislocates at the sternoclavicular joint.


Sternum fracture symptoms

Symptoms of a fractured sternum include:

  • Sudden onset of pain at the front of the chest after an impact or fall of some kind
  • Localised pain which does not radiate
  • Tenderness when touching the area of the fracture
  • Bruising may appear a few hours later
  • Up to 20% of patients have breathing difficulties and pain coughing or sneezing

Symptoms of a bruised sternum

Symptoms of a less serious Sternum contusion are similar:

  • Breastbone/sternum pain.
  • Your sternum will feel tender to the touch.
  • Coughing and sneezing are also likely to reproduce pain.
  • Bruising may appear later.

Treatment of a bruised sternum requires rest for 2-4 weeks to allow the bone to heal. If in doubt seek professional advice. You may need an X-ray to determine if you have sternum or rib fractures.


Fractured sternums most frequently occur from road traffic accidents or direct trauma from contact sports.

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) chest compressions on an injured patient may also result in a fracture of the sternum.

It is possible that fractures of the breastbone also happen with considerably less force. For example in golfers and weightlifters. Older people with Osteoporosis are at a higher risk of injury.

Sternum fracture complications

Whilst most common fractures are often straightforward to treat, a Sternal fracture needs careful examination. This is because complications may occur, for example bruising of the heart and lungs (pulmonary and cardiac contusions). Or possible injury to the aorta (main artery from the heart).

If the fractured part of the bone displaces (moves), this is more likely to result in further complications.

Treatment & surgery

Treatment of a sternum fracture or a bruised sternum that isn’t displaced generally involves rest and painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications.

If bone fragments are displaced, then surgery may be required to re-align the two bone pieces and possibly fix them with pins or screws.

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