As some Montana residents may know, fractures of the sternum commonly occur in a motor vehicle accident. Sternal fractures are fractures of the flat bone of the chest. This bone protects the heart, lungs and aorta. The symptoms can include chest pain, soreness, bruising, difficulty breathing and pain when taking a deep breath, coughing, sneezing or laughing. Muscle spasms may ensue after a sternal fracture and the rib area may appear deformed. Sometimes, there is a grinding or crunching sound at the injury site.
Diagnosis of a sternal fracture is made by examining the chest for signs of bruising, deformity and swelling. X-rays are performed to visualize the fracture site, and a CT or MRI scan may be done to eliminate the possibility of injury to the lungs or heart. Complications include cardiac injury such as a contusion. Other problems are a ruptured aorta or a punctured lung as well as fractures of the vertebrae or ribs.
Sternal fracture may result from a traumatic injury to the chest. Of such injuries, 60 to 95 percent occur in a motor vehicle accident, particularly when the individual is not wearing a seat belt. The impact of the chest on the steering wheel or dash may result in a fracture of the sternum. Recovery, without complications, is slow and involves rest for approximately 10 to 24 weeks. The patient is restricted from such activities as lifting, pushing heavy objects or doing overhead work.
A person who incurs a fracture of the sternum in a car accident may be unable to work for an extended period and require medical care. This may involve a financial burden to the victim and, if the accident was caused by the negligence of another driver, damages may be sought through the filing of a personal injury suit.