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Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2000 May;82(3):162-6.

Management of isolated sternal fractures: determining the risk of blunt cardiac injury.

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Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Yorkshire Heart Centre, Leeds General Infirmary, UK.


A review of the management of isolated sternal fractures in a regional cardiothoracic unit reveals that, in a 2 year period, 37 consecutive patients were admitted for observation and further investigation, including echocardiography and cardiac enzyme measurements to exclude blunt cardiac injury. Minor blunt cardiac injury was detected in only one patient, and was associated with an acutely abnormal electrocardiogram (ECG). ECG showed acute changes in 8 further patients, whilst 3 patients had an abnormal chest X-ray (CXR) due to widening of the mediastinum (1 patient had abnormal CXR and ECG), but none had evidence of cardiac injury. CXR and ECG were both normal in 23 patients, and were predictive of the absence of significant complications. A survey of 22 other cardiothoracic units around the UK confirms that the management of patients with isolated sternal fractures varies considerably from hospital to hospital. As suggested by previous reports, we believe that patients, who are otherwise fit and have normal ECG and CXR on presentation, can be safely discharged home on oral analgesics. The routine use of echocardiography and creatinine kinase (CK) assays in the assessment of isolated sternal fractures is not indicated. The introduction of these guidelines has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of patients admitted with isolated sternal fractures to our unit.

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