Sternal fractures--the natural history

Ann Emerg Med. 1988 Sep;17(9):912-4. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(88)80670-x.


A five-year retrospective study was undertaken to analyze the natural history of sternal fractures and to scrutinize the current method of management. Sixty-six patients with documented sternal fractures were evaluated. The most common mechanism of injury was motor vehicle accidents (59%). Most of these victims did not wear seat belts. Thirty-five patients (53%) had associated injuries, of which rib fractures were the most common. Thirty-one patients (47%) had sternal fractures with no associated injury. The incidence of myocardial contusion in our study was 18%. Of the patients without associated injuries, the incidence of myocardial contusion was 6%. There were no mortalities in our study population, and there was no significant morbidity necessitating mechanical or pharmacologic support. The majority of these patients were managed by admission, observation, IV therapy, and placement of monitored beds. Our findings of no life-threatening sequelae suggest that we might question the necessity of current management criteria. This proves to be of special interest in view of the economic restraints imposed on health care today.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / complications
  • Fractures, Bone / economics
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology*
  • Heart Injuries / complications
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rib Fractures / complications
  • Rib Fractures / etiology
  • Sternum / injuries*