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J Surg Res. 2014 Jan;186(1):39-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2013.08.025. Epub 2013 Sep 20.

Sternal fracture--an analysis of the National Trauma Data Bank.

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Division of Trauma, Emergency Surgery, and Surgical Critical Care, Department of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Electronic address:



The clinical significance of sternal fractures (SFs) after blunt trauma is heavily debated. We aimed to test the hypothesis that isolated SF is not associated with significant morbidity or mortality.


The National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) sets for 2007-2010 were retrospectively examined. Adult subjects with SF were identified by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification diagnostic codes. Data collected included demographics, mechanisms of injury, clinical variables, and in-hospital mortality. The primary outcome measure was in-hospital mortality. Secondary outcome measures included hospital length of stay, intensive care unit days, and ventilator days.


A total of 32,746 subjects with SF were included. Motor vehicle crash (MVC) was the most common mechanism (84%) in this group and SF was present in 3.7% of all patients admitted after MVC. The mean age was 51 y, 66% were males, and most were white (74%). Overall in-hospital mortality was 8.8% and mortality with isolated SF was 3.5%. Increasing thoracic fracture burden (rib fracture, clavicular fracture, and scapular fracture) was associated with increasing hospital length of stay, intensive care unit days, ventilator days, and mortality. On multivariate regression analysis, other significant predictors of mortality were cardiac arrest, acute respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary embolism, blunt cardiac injury, pulmonary contusion, increasing age, and lack of insurance.


SFs occur in 3.7% of victims after MVC. With isolated SF, the mortality rate is low (3.5%); the tendency for poorer outcomes is most heavily influenced by associated injuries (pulmonary contusions, other thoracic fractures), complications (cardiac arrest, pulmonary embolism, acute respiratory distress syndrome), comorbidities (currently on or requiring dialysis, residual neurologic deficit from stroke), and lack of insurance.


Blunt cardiac injury; Motor vehicle crash; NTDB; Sternal fracture

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