Broken sternum: What are the signs?

A broken sternum is often due to trauma and usually seen in vehicular accidents where the chest strikes the steering wheel. The sternum or breastbone is an elongated vertical bone in the middle of the chest.

It is linked to the ribs to form a protective enclosure for the organs and tissues including the lungs and heart. A diagnosis of the injury is typically made with a CT scan or chest X-ray.


A broken fracture often triggers chest pain and spasms in the middle of the chest.

The sternum often heals on its own, but medications, rest and application of an ice pack can promote faster healing. In some instances, the injury is evident upon visual assessment. If an individual is suspected with a broken sternum, seek prompt medical care.

Close look on the indications of a broken sternum

Tenderness and pain

A broken fracture often triggers chest pain and spasms in the middle of the chest. Coughing, moving, sneezing or heavy breathing can worsen the discomfort. The area surrounding the sternum and mid-line of the chest might be sore to the touch.

The affected area might start to swell along with bruising. In some cases, there is damage to the internal organs.

Difficulty breathing

The individual might have trouble breathing if he/she has a broken sternum. Heavy breathing can trigger pain or an uncomfortable pressure. Remember that difficulty breathing alone is not an indication of a fractured sternum.

A chest X-ray along with other indications that signify a broken sternum are needed to come up with a definitive diagnosis.

Disfigured chest region

Sustaining blunt force trauma often results to a broken sternum. The chest region might be evidently deformed which indicates that a fracture has occurred. It is important to note that the injury can cause a bend or indentation in the chest that can be felt or seen.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a broken sternum is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications of the injury, register for a first aid and CPR course with Vancouver First Aid.


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