The rib cage, also known as thoracic cage or thoracic basket, is an important part of the human skeletal system. Twelve pairs of ribs, sternum, twelve thoracic vertebrae and costal cartilage together make up the human rib cage. The sternum or breastbone, is a T-shaped bone that is located in the middle portion of the anterior wall of the rib cage. The upper section of this elongated bone supports the collarbones, and its margins are connected to the ends of the first seven pairs of the ribs through costal cartilage.
The sternum is divided into three segments that are known as manubrium, gladiolus and the xiphoid process. Manubrium is the broad upper section of the sternum that attaches to the first two pairs of ribs, while body of the sternum is the elongated part of the sternum. Xiphoid process, the smallest segment of sternum joins with the seventh pair of ribs. It is located at the inferior end.
If one receives a blow to the chest or is subjected to any form of blunt chest trauma, the rib cage acts as a protective covering and protects the organs and blood vessels within the chest region from getting damaged. There could, however, be times, when the rib cage may not be able to withstand blunt chest trauma. If the chest is struck with a great force, it could lead to a sternal fracture. Rest coupled with self-care measures will help in healing minor cracks, but severe fractures may need an elaborate treatment. Here's some information on the causes of a sternal fracture along with ways to heal a fractured sternum.
What Causes the Sternum to Fracture?
Most of the time, a bruised, cracked or fractured sternum results from blunt chest trauma. Ribs or sternum injuries could occur while playing contact sports or as a result of physical assault. Motor vehicle accidents wherein the chest forcefully hits against the steering wheel is also one of the most common causes of rib or sternum injuries. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which is performed to revive a person suffering from a cardiac arrest, can also cause bruised or cracked sternum. One is likely to suffer from pain and discomfort in case of mild injuries that cause a bruised sternum. Under these circumstances, use of painkillers, application of warm compresses and rest will surely help in speeding up the recovery.
However, surgical intervention may be needed if a severe impact causes a displaced sternal fracture. Surgery might become a necessity if the sternum is pushed further into the chest cavity. For people suffering from conditions such as osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, slight trauma to the chest can also cause a fracture.
Treatment of a Fractured Sternum
Wondering how to treat a fractured sternum? Well, blunt chest trauma is one of the most commons reason behind sternal or rib fractures which is why medical help must be sought by people who suffer from such an injury. If you notice bruising and swelling on chest, and have also been experiencing painful breathing since the injury, let a doctor examine you. Doctors will then determine how to treat sternal fracture once they have ascertained the extent of damage to the sternum. An X-ray examination or imaging procedures such as a CT scan or ultrasound may help in detecting the impact of injury on the rib cage and the organs present within the chest cavity. Lateral radiographs can also help in determining the extent of sternal displacement.
Since a fractured sternum is most likely to cause pain and inflammation, doctors are most likely to prescribe painkillers, non-inflammatory drugs or steroids. In most cases of sternal fractures, one will be asked to take bed rest for about 3 to 4 weeks. After that, one may perform mild physical activities. All sternal fractures do not require surgery. Small cracks may heal with drug therapy and rest, but a severe fracture will require surgical intervention. In severe cases of displaced fracture, there is a risk of complications associated with the organs located in the chest region. In severe cases, oxygen therapy and cardiac monitoring may also be needed. Once the broken sternum is repaired through surgery, one may take three to four months to recover from a sternal fracture. The recovery will be slow if one doesn't follow the doctor's guidelines and indulges in activities that may put strain on the sternum.
This was some information on ways to treat a fractured sternum. Since blunt chest trauma can cause a fractured sternum, such traumatic injuries must not be ignored. If the imaging procedures indicate a fractured sternum, drug therapy along with self-care measures can help in alleviating the pain and discomfort. In event of a displaced fracture, the patient may have to undergo surgery for repositioning of the sternum. If one follows the doctor's guidelines properly, one will be able to recover within a few months.