Broken Sternum Recovery

The sternum, also known as breastbone, is a flat T-shaped bone which is located at the upper-middle section of the chest region. It connects to the true ribs through cartilage and its superior end supports the collarbone. Manubrium, gladiolus and the xiphoid process are three sections of this elongated bone. Manubrium is placed at the upper section of the sternum and attaches to the collarbone and the first two pairs of true ribs. The middle portion of this bone is referred to as the gladiolus or the body of the sternum. The manubrium and body of the sternum meet at an angle. This is referred to as sternal angle. The cartilaginous structure at the inferior end of the sternum is referred to as xiphoid process.

Though the breastbone is quite strong, a severe blow to the chest or blunt force can cause a sternal fracture. It is the sternal angle that is most commonly affected by blunt trauma to the chest. In this article, we will look into causes, symptoms and treatment of broken or a cracked sternum.

Causes and Symptoms of a Broken Breastbone

Motor vehicle accidents emerge as one of the most common causes of sternum fracture. However strong the sternum may be, there is always a likelihood of a sternum injury if it is struck with a heavy object or if one receives a severe blow to the chest or any powerful blunt force. The injury may be significant in case a heavy object falls on the chest or one’s chest slams against the steering wheel in a motor vehicle accident. Those who play direct contact sports are more likely to suffer from high-impact injuries that can displace the sternum and push it into the chest cavity. Repeated stress to the chest could occur in case of people who play weightlifting, rowing or golf. Such people are quite susceptible to a stress fracture.

Aging also affects the body in many ways, and for some, it may affect the bone density. This can make one prone to sternum fractures. Impact of a mild injury may be great in case of people suffering from joint disorders such as osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. Compression of the rib cage during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may also cause bruising of sternum. Chest pain and painful breathing are the common symptoms of a broken sternum. Visible signs of injury such as bruising, redness or swelling would be present if one received a severe blow to the chest or any such injury.

Treatment of a Broken Breastbone

The best way to rule out a sternum fracture is to get a thorough medical checkup done. An X-ray examination along with other imaging procedures can help doctors ascertain the extent of damage to the sternum. If the sternum has developed a small crack, one may not require surgery. Since usage of brace or a cast may adversely impact the patient’s breathing, their use is often discouraged.

Drug therapy may help in alleviating the distressing symptoms. Doctors may recommend the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics. One may take about two to three months to recover from a cracked sternum. In order to speed up the process of broken sternum recovery, one will need to refrain from intensive workouts or any activity that puts pressure on the sternum. One of the common complications of sternal fracture is its impact on breathing. A fractured sternum could interfere with breathing, and cause shortness of breath or labored breathing. In severe cases, one may need mechanical ventilation.

Surgical reconstruction would be recommended if the sternum got fractured or displaced. A displaced sternum will need to be placed back in its place. This may involve the use of an internal fixation device. At times, sternum could get fractured after a heart surgery. A heart surgery often involves the separation of sternum. After the heart surgery is over, the sternum is then fixed with the help of sternal wires or titanium plates. The sternum generally heals within three to four months, but some people may take longer to heal. One may end up suffering from a popping sternum or painful breathing if the sternum wires pull through the sternum. A broken breastbone may pull the rib cage out of alignment. So, if one has been experiencing any such symptoms, consult a doctor. After undergoing the surgery, one must follow the doctor’s guidelines so as to speed up the healing process.

A cracked sternum is one of the most common causes of sternum pain. Besides pain, one may also experience painful breathing and chest pain. A timely diagnosis and treatment is extremely essential to avoid complications. So, those of you who suspect that their sternum might have been injured due to blunt force, must consult a doctor soon.