Sternal Fractures Associated with Spinal Injury

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Twenty-eight cases of sternal fractures and/or dislocations were reviewed for the presence of associated spinal injury. Patient records and radiographs were studied. Sixteen cases had inadequate radiographs to rule out spine fracture. Three cases had known direct injuries to the sternum. Of the remaining nine patients, eight had spine fractures. All of the spine fractures were consistent with a flexion injury mechanism. Three patients had spine fractures at the thoracic level and four at the lumbar level. One patient had lower cervical and thoracic injuries. In the patients with spine injury, the proximal manubrial fragment tended to displace posteriorly. Similarly, the manubrium would move posteriorly in manubriosternal dislocations. A case of spontaneous sternal fracture in a patient with osteoporosis and multiple thoracic compression fractures is described. One patient had open reduction of the manubriosternal joint. Three patients who were admitted for their sternal injuries had spine fractures which were not recognized during the hospitalization. There were no cases of mediastinal injury in the patients with combined sternal and spinal injuries.

Flexion injury to the spine may cause buckling of the sternum. However, indirect sternal injury continues to be overlooked. Careful evaluation for spine injuries should be done on all patients with sternal fractures and vice versa.

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