Also Known As: Fracture/Sternum, Sternal Fracture, Sternum Fracture, Fracture of Sternum, Fracture Sternum
A 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 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. 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.
Vehicle collisions are the usual cause of sternal fracture; the injury is estimated to occur in about 3% of auto accidents. 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. It was common enough for the sternum to be injured by the seatbelt that it was included in the 'safety belt syndrome', a pattern of injuries caused by seat belts in vehicle accidents.
The injury can also occur when the chest suddenly flexes, in the absence of an impact.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.