Objective: Sternal fracture is poorly characterised in children. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the mechanism, radiological characteristics, and accompanying injuries of sternal fracture in children.
Methods: The study was retrospective. The records of all children who underwent plain radiography of the sternum, or computed tomography of the thorax after trauma, over a 40 month period in our paediatric hospital were reviewed for evidence of sternal fracture.
Results: 12 of 33 children identified had radiological evidence of sternal fracture. The age range of children with fractures was 5 to 12 years. Eleven children had fracture of the anterior cortex of the first or second sternebra of the body of the sternum. One child had fracture through the manubriosternal joint with posterior displacement of the body. Seven fractures resulted from direct blows to the anterior chest, five fractures resulted from hyperflexion injury of the thoracic spine. None were the result of motor vehicle crash. All fractures were isolated injuries.
Conclusions: Sternal fracture is uncommon in children. Injury may result from direct or indirect violence. The child’s sternum is commonly fractured by more minor blunt trauma than generally recognised in the literature. All patients with sternal fracture after indirect violence should have careful examination of the spine. Patients with undisplaced anterior cortical fracture without other injury may be safely discharged from the emergency department.
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