Trauma X-ray - Axial skeleton
Sternum

Key points

  • Look for a step in the cortex of the sternum
  • Don't mistake the sternomanubrial junction for a fracture

Fractures of the sternum are often due to direct trauma such as a road traffic crash, but may also be caused by chest compressions in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Standard view

Lateral - Sternal fractures are generally only visible with a lateral view. In the context of suspected sternal injury a chest X-ray is also indicated. Severe chest trauma may require further imaging with thoracic spine X-rays and/or CT.

Sternum - Normal - Lateral

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Sternum - Normal - Lateral

  • Note the normal sternomanubrial joint which should not be mistaken for a fracture

Sternal fractures

Check for a step in the cortex of the sternum. Swelling of the surrounding soft tissue can accompany bone fracture.

Sternal fracture - Lateral

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Sternal fracture - Lateral

  • A step in the cortex of the sternum indicates a fracture