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Am Surg. 2009 May;75(5):401-4.

Epidemiology of sternal fractures.

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Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care, Los Angeles County, University of Southern California Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA.


The epidemiology of sternal fractures has been poorly described. The objective of this study was to examine the demographics, outcomes and injuries associated with sternal fractures. The trauma registry at a level I trauma center was retrospectively reviewed to identify all patients with sternal fractures over a 10 year period. Demographic data collected included age, gender, mechanism of injury and injury severity score. Patients were analyzed according to age < or = 55 or > 55 years. During the 10-year study period, a total of 37,087 patients were admitted to the emergency department. Of these, 125 (0.33%) had a sternal fracture. The average age was 44 +/- 17 years, with 76.0 per cent being male. The most common mechanism of injury was motor vehicle collision (68%) followed by auto vs. pedestrian (18%). Associated rib fractures occurred in 49.6% of the population, cardiac contusions in 8.0%, thoracic aortic injuries in 4.0 per cent and heart lacerations in 2.4 per cent of patients. Associated rib fractures were more likely to occur in patients over the age of 55 (66.7% vs 44.2%, P = 0.032) as well as a traumatic hemothorax (15.8% vs 40.0%, P = 0.005). However, no significant difference in mortality was observed between the two age groups (16.8% vs. 26.7%, OR: 0.56, 95% CI, 0.21 to 1.47; P = 0.234). Sternal fractures are a rare sequela of blunt trauma. Associated injuries are common, including rib fractures and soft tissue contusions. Associated cardiac and aortic injuries are rare but highly lethal and should be screened for on the initial chest CT scan. After appropriate exclusion of associated injuries, the majority of patients diagnosed with a sternal fracture following blunt trauma can be safely discharged to home.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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