Sternal fracture in the emergency department: diagnostic value of multidetector CT with sagittal and coronal reconstruction images

Eur J Radiol. 2012 May;81(5):e708-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2011.05.029. Epub 2011 Jun 15.


Background: Multidetector CT (MDCT) is being increasingly used for patients with traumatic injuries in the emergency room. This is the first study to evaluate the diagnostic performance of MDCT for sternal fracture.

Patients and methods: For 87 patients who had motor vehicle accidents, we evaluated the diagnostic performance of MDCT for the sternal fractures. For 31 patients who underwent both MDCT and lateral radiography for the sternum, we compared the diagnostic performance of two examinations for the evaluation of sternal fracture.

Results: Thirty-two patients had sternal fractures and all the sternal fractures (sensitivity=100%) were detected on MDCT, especially on the sagittal reconstruction images. However, the axial and coronal images detected 65% and 59% of all sternal fractures, respectively. For 31 patients who underwent both MDCT and lateral radiography for the sternum, MDCT showed superior diagnostic performance compared to that of radiography (accuracy=97% and 77%, respectively, P=.02). For the one case that showed false positivity for sternal fracture on MDCT due to respiratory artifact, the lateral radiography enabled making the correct diagnosis.

Conclusion: Sternal fracture is frequently seen in patients who have blunt trauma injury secondary to motor vehicle accidents. MDCT, particularly sagittal images detect all of the sternal fractures, is superior to lateral radiography for diagnosis of sternal fracture. In the limited case that CT has severe motion artifact, additional radiography could help the diagnosis of sternal fracture.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Observer Variation
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sternum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sternum / injuries*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Young Adult