Whether from a car accident, a fall, or a violent attack on the chest, damage to your sternum can cause you pain and discomfort until the fracture heals. In some severe cases, your doctor may perform surgery to set the pieces of this critical bone so it can heal properly. 

If you suspect your sternum has been injured, you must seek medical help immediately. The signs of a fractured sternum are similar to other types of injuries, so knowing how to distinguish them is imperative.

Your Sternum’s Location and Function

If you place your hand in the middle of your chest and run it down from below your neck to the middle of your torso, you should feel a flat, solid piece of bone. This is your sternum, also known as your breastplate. Although it is one bone, it is divided into three parts, known as the manubrium, the body, and the xiphoid process.

As a whole, your sternum serves to protect the organs located in your upper torso, including your heart and lungs. As a solid piece of sturdy bone, it can absorb and distribute blunt force trauma away from these vital organs. Your ribs also connect to various parts of your sternum, forming a bony capsule that protects your internal organs on all sides.

How Your Sternum Sustains Injuries and Fractures

The sternum is sturdy, but it is not indestructible. With enough force, this bone can partially or completely fracture. A partial fracture is one where the breastbone does not completely break. Conversely, a complete fracture results in a break that separates the sternum into two or more pieces.

Blunt force trauma is the most common cause of sternum fractures. While this can include punches and other acts of violence, a motor vehicle accident is the most common cause of fractured sternums. When you are wearing a seat belt and suddenly come to a stop after colliding with another object, the pressure placed on the sternum can cause it to fracture.

Symptoms Indicating a Fractured Sternum and Treatment Options

Unlike a broken leg bone or broken arm, you are not likely to see part of your sternum jutting out from your chest. Instead, the symptoms of a broken breastbone are more subtle and non-specific. For example, the area of your sternum will be tender and sore. You may also notice bruising or swelling around the site of the injury. 

Finally, a fractured sternum may make it painful to breathe normally. The pain and discomfort you experience may persist or even get worse as time passes.

Like any other broken bone, making a complete recovery requires that the sternum be properly set and then allowed time to heal. After diagnosing you with a fractured sternum using X-rays or other imaging, your doctor may direct you to rest and not perform any strenuous activity for a set period of time. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe you medication to help you manage any pain you are experiencing.

Your doctor may recommend surgery in cases of a severe and complete fracture. This procedure would help doctors set your sternum pieces in the proper place to heal correctly.

What To Do If You Suspect You Have Fractured Your Sternum

If you are hurt in a car accident, sporting accident, or any other incident that causes a blow to your chest, and you notice pain or tenderness, you should visit the nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible. Quick and painless imaging can detect whether your sternum has been fractured and, if so, the severity of the break. The sooner you commence treatment, the quicker you can obtain relief from your pain, and the better your fracture will heal. After seeking medical treatment, speak to an experienced Houston personal injury attorney if your fractured sternum resulted from someone else’s negligence. An attorney can help you pursue compensation from the at-fault party for your medical bills, pain, lost wages, and other damages.

Contact a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer to Help You With Your Claim

For more information, contact the Houston personal injury law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000.

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