Also Known As: Fracture/Sternum, Sternal Fracture, Sternum Fracture, Fracture of Sternum, Fracture Sternum

sternal fracture is a fracture of the sternum (the breastbone), located in the center of thechest. The injury, which occurs in 5–8% of people who experience significant blunt chest trauma, may occur in vehicle accidents, when the still-moving chest strikes a steering wheel or dashboard[2] or is injured by a seatbelt. Sternal fractures may also occur as a pathological fracture, in people who have weakened bone in their sternum, due to another disease process.[3] Sternal fracture can interfere with breathing by making it more painful; however, its primary significance is that it can indicate the presence of serious associated internal injuries, especially to the heart and lungs.[4]

Vehicle collisions are the usual cause of sternal fracture;[4] the injury is estimated to occur in about 3% of auto accidents.[5] The chest of a driver who is not wearing a seat belt may strike the steering wheel, and the shoulder component of a seatbelt may injure the chest if it is worn without the lap component.[4] It was common enough for the sternum to be injured by the seatbelt that it was included in the 'safety belt syndrome',[6] a pattern of injuries caused by seat belts in vehicle accidents.[7]

The injury can also occur when the chest suddenly flexes, in the absence of an impact.[3]Additionally, injury to the sternum may be made more likely if there are other disease processes in place that have weakened the bone - in this case, the fracture that occurs is termed a pathologic fracture.

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