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What is sternum fracture?

A sternum fracture is a break to the breast bone. 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.

How common is sternum fracture?

Sternum fracture is common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.



What are the symptoms of sternum fracture?

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 localized and does 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.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes sternum fracture?

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 breast bone may also happen with considerably less force and have been seen in Golfers and weight lifters 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.


Risk factors

What increases my risk for sternum fracture?

Please consult your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is sternum fracture diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a breastbone fracture is based on a history of chest trauma, physical examination findings, and imaging techniques.

The doctor feels the breastbone to identify any changes in the shape or discontinuity in the structure. The chest region is also examined for deformations, bruising, or swelling.

Plain X-rays of the upper chest determine the severity and location of the sternal fracture. In case of severe injury, specialized imaging studies such as CT and MRI are done to detect any other associated injuries.

The doctor particularly looks out for the presence of internal injuries such as those to the lungs and the heart. Other additional tests may also be advised depending upon the suspected organ or structure injured.

How is sternum fracture treated?

The treatment of a sternum fracture is dependent upon the severity of the fracture and the type of organ involved (if any). Life-saving measures are initiated if severe or life-threatening injuries to the lungs, heart or blood vessels are noted.

In the absence of such injuries or, once the condition of the affected individual is stabilized, other treatment measures are started.

The supportive treatment for sternum fractures includes rest for about 10-24 weeks and applying a cold compress to the injured region to help reduce inflammation. However, care should be taken not to apply pressure.

Individuals suffering from sternal fractures are advised not to perform any actions such as lifting, carrying, or pushing heavy objects, and overhead work until it is healed.

Patients can take medications to reduce pain and inflammation.

While the requirement for surgery in sternum fracture cases is quite low, it may be needed when large fractures or involvement of underlying organs are included.

Patients with isolated sternal fractures generally require short admissions to hospital for pain control and most of them recover completely over a period of 9-12 weeks with an average of 10.4weeks. Two-thirds of these patients require only analgesia and their predominant symptom is chest pain during this period.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage sternum fracture?

The following tips might help you prevent sternum fracture:

  • The majority of sternum fractures are caused due to traffic collisions. Wearing seat belts can prevent breastbone fractures in such situations.
  • Wearing protective equipment while involved in contact or high impact sports and while working at high-rise construction sites can prevent a sternum fracture in these groups of individuals. Lifting or pulling heavy equipment at work without proper protective gears should be avoided.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: November 3, 2017 | Last Modified: November 3, 2017

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