Sternum fractures are among the most painful of injuries. While many breaks take place in areas of the body that can be held still if need be, the fractured sternum is next to your lungs which must always be moving. In addition to this, other involuntary actions such as sneezing, coughing, or hiccoughs can be excruciating.The sternum is the center of the chest and your body so it is easy to see why it can be a devastating injury.
There can be many causes of this injury, but the most common cause is car accidents. Michael Kelly, a lawyer in Boston, says that sternum fractures happen in approximately 3% of all car accidents. This is because of several factors. Seat belts, although helping to protect you in case of an accident, are the main cause of these breaks due to the large amount of force that is put on your chest in the event of a collision. Also prevalent are injuries due to hitting the steering wheel with your chest. These instances are fewer in cars which are properly equipped with airbags.
Sternum injuries can also occur in a variety of other circumstances. CPR, if administered forcefully, has been known to cause breakage of the sternum. Assaults, falls, and contact sports such as football and soccer can also result in a break.
Symptoms for these breaks are pain when breathing, swelling around your chest, and discoloration. If you have any of these symptoms after some sort of trauma, as well as remembering hearing any type of breaking or crunching sound at the time of impact, you should go to an emergency room as soon as possible.
Fractured sternums are well regarded as one of the more dangerous injuries not because of the injury itself but because of the potential of other life threatening injuries that may have occurred at the same time. Because your heart, lungs, and other organs are in the same general area, doctors are well trained to search for any other injuries in this same location. When you go to the emergency room, they will check for injuries to your ribs, abdomen, heart, lungs, and spine. In addition they will do a thorough check of the outside of your body to check for any additional trauma. In order to determine the extent of your injuries, the doctor may use an x-ray machine, ultrasound technology, or even CT scan which will give them a better idea of any other injuries which might have occurred.
Patients of this injury do not usually need to be admitted to the hospital if there is nothing else amiss. However, some patients, especially older ones, may be held at the hospital for the purposes of pain management if an IV is needed to impart constant relief. This is usually the extent of care. The bones do not need to be splinted into place, and it is preferable not todo so as this inhibits your ability to breathe. Instead, pain management is the preferred method of treatment. This can be done at the hospital, but can also be carried out very successfully at home. The two parts of the sternum will almost always repair themselves, but in some cases an imperfect healing may cause the need for surgery later.
Homecare for a broken sternum should include a pain killer regimen prescribed by your doctor as well as plenty of rest. Healing can take anywhere from 8 weeks to 12 weeks, and activity during this time should be limited. However, gentle range of motion exercises can be implemented to strengthen your chest and shoulder muscles. Later on, it is also a good idea to revive your aerobic exercise routine to get your heart pumping again in order to encourage healing in that area. Of course, all activity should be okayed with your doctor first. After the main portion of healing has been completed, most doctors recommend deep breathing exercises to recondition your lungs and strengthen them and the muscles around them. In certain cases, healing cannot be completed on its own and needs the assistance of surgery. This is especially true if you are having difficulty breathing.
If you have recently been in an accident or a fall and have fractured your sternum, now is the time to slow down, take care of yourself, and get plenty of rest. Be patient with yourself as this can be a long and painful injury and give yourself the time that you need to heal.