Objective: To determine the incidence, morbidity, and mortality associated with fractures of the sternum.
Design: A retrospective review of the medical records of all patients treated in an emergency department with the radiologic diagnosis of sternal fracture during a 6 1/2 year period between January 1, 1985 and June 30, 1991.
Setting: A level II trauma center in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.
Patients: 272 patients were eligible for analysis. Only 6 patients of 251 involved in motor vehicle collisions were documented as not wearing seatbelts.
Results: The incidence of sternal fracture as a result of motor vehicle collisions was 3%. Sternal fracture is more common in female victims and the elderly and is associated with a very low incidence of cardiac arrhythmias requiring treatment. It has a mortality of 0.7%.
Conclusions: Sternal fracture is a common injury in a population where restraints are frequently used. PATIENTS with an isolated sternal fracture do not require cardiac monitoring and those under 40 years of age may be cared for in a short stay ward.