The sternum, or breastbone, is located in the center of the chest. A fracture of the sternum is known as a sternal fracture or a sternum fracture. Because sternal fractures are commonly associated with injuries to the heart and lungs, a sternum fracture is a potentially life-threatening condition. The most common cause of a sternal fracture is a motor vehicle accident. About 3% of injury auto accidents result in a sternal fracture. Injuries can be caused by the seatbelt, or in the absence of a seatbelt when the chest strikes the steering wheel or dashboard. Other causes of sternum fractures include pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, sports accidents, and violent assaults.
Anatomy of the Sternum
The sternum has three parts: the manubrium, the corpus (body), and the xiphoid process. The manubrium is the broad, upper part of the sternum, which connects with the two clavicles and the first two ribs. The corpus is the long middle part of the sternum and the xiphoid process is the lower tip of the sternum. The xiphoid process should be avoided while administering CPR. If the xiphoid process breaks off, it may be driven into the heart lining and muscle, causing punctures, lacerations, or other injuries to the diaphragm.
Sternum Fracture Diagnosis and Treatment
If you suspect a sternum fracture or other injury due to blunt trauma to the chest, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention. X-rays will be taken to establish whether you have a sternal fracture or other broken bones, such as fractured ribs or a fractured clavicle. With a chest injury, doctors will also want to rule out other internal injuries to the heart or lungs. If you have a sternal fracture, your doctor may have you take ibuprofen (for its anti-inflammatory benefits) and other pain relievers. Surgery will be necessary only if the fracture is large and the sternum is unstable. Fortunately, most sternal fractures do not require surgery. Your doctor will probably advise you to rest the injured area and limit movement initially, and gradually start moving around so that the fracture heals appropriately. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy to strengthen chest muscles.
Compensation for Bone Fracture Injuries
Broken bones can be extremely painful and have a lengthy recovery time. If you have suffered a sternum fracture in an accident that was not your fault, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries. Damages awarded in an accident settlement or verdict can include money for past and future medical expenses, rehabilitation and therapy, lost earnings due to not being able to work, loss of earning capacity, and other accident-related expenses.
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