Fixing a Sternum Injury
There are several ways that a sternum injury can occur. The most common form of injury is blunt force trauma to the sternum due to a car accident or sports related injuries. Injuring the sternum is often a very painful condition, and due its close proximity to the heart, it may be wise to seek medical attention for a severe sternum injury. The sternum, often referred to as the breast bone is the hard flat bone that connects the ribs together in the center and front part of the chest. The ribs are connected to the sternum by flexible cartilage, which allows the sternum and the ribs to move during breathing. The sternum is also essential to protecting the inner central cavity of the chest, including the heart and lungs.
Mild sternum injuries can occur from small amounts of blunt force trauma to the area, or because the sternum is covered with chest muscles, a sprain or tearing of the muscle may also occur. This type of injury often occurs with athletes and weight lifters. Mild sternum injuries can be rather painful, and may interfere with the patient’s ability to breathe normally. Resting the body and adding ice to the injured area is just about the best type of care for a mildly injured sternum. The symptoms will often heal themselves after a few days to a few weeks.
More serious accidents to the sternum area, such as the kind football players often receive or the trauma that is often inflicted on the chest during a car accident where the steering wheel crushes the chest present many more problems. These more severe injuries are extremely painful and may actually impair the patient’s breathing enough to cause serious problems. Pain during breathing may also be an indicator of serious internal injuries, mostly of the heart and lungs. Most of the time a fracture or break of the sternum will signal a series of associated injuries. A fracture sternum very often means that other injuries to the heart and lungs may have also occurred. The sternum was designed to protect the chest cavity, but it was not designed to take the amount of force that can occur in car accidents. This means that if a trauma to the chest occurs that is dangerous enough to fracture the sternum, it may also cause pulmonary and myocardial contusions as well. These injuries can be fatal.
Other forms of injuries that are often associated with sternum fractures are bleeding from the damaged blood vessels in the chest, bronchial tears, or tearing of the tissues that control breathing inside of the lungs, and ruptures of the myocardial tissues. Because of these associated risks of a sternum fracture, the mortality rate is much higher that of other types of fractures, typically 25-45%. This is less true if there is a not associated injury. An isolated fractured sternum will be painful, but will heal just fine.
Treating Sternum Injuries
In order to determine the seriousness of a sternum injury, a doctor will need to perform x-rays and CT scans of the chest region. Hospitalization is not usually required for sternum injuries unless some more serious associated injuries also occur. Because of the sternum’s close proximity to the heart, the doctor will most likely also monitor the heart with an electrocardiogram. If breathing is severely interfered with, the patient may need to intubated and placed on a mechanical ventilator. If the fracture is causing a deformity or is extremely out of place, surgical intervention may be required. Mild injuries can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications and restriction of movements until the area has healed. Always get any form of sternum injury above a light bruising checked out by a doctor.