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Sternal fracture

A closed fracture of the sternum is a break of the breastbone that occurs without an associated skin injury. The upper and middle thirds of the sternum are the portions most commonly fractured.

The majority of sternum fractures are caused by blunt trauma to the chest. Sternum fractures may occur from compression of the rib cage such as during cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Most sternum fractures are merely a crack, but occasionally violent trauma pushes (displaces) the sternum into the chest cavity. Sternum fractures can also be caused by repeated stress or can occur spontaneously because of bone weakness (stress fracture). Stress fractures of the sternum are uncommon.

Most sternum fractures are caused by motor vehicle accidents (deceleration injuries). The use of seatbelts has led to an increase in the number of sternum fractures, but the severity of other injuries associated with motor vehicle accidents has decreased. Sternum fractures occur more frequently in women than in men, probably due to positioning of the safety belt while driving. Sternum fractures may also be caused by falls, assaults, and direct impact sports.

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