Early National Landscape of Surgical Stabilization of Sternal Fractures



Operative management of chest wall injuries aims to restore respiratory mechanics and mitigate pulmonary complications. Extensive studies support surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRF) for select patients, but role for surgical stabilization of sternal fractures (SSSF) remains unclear. We aimed to understand national prevalence of SSSF and compare outcomes after surgical stabilization and non-operative management of sternal fractures.


We retrospectively analyzed adult patients (age ≥ 18 years) admitted with sternal fractures after blunt trauma using the 2016 National Trauma Data Bank. We compared odds of inpatient mortality, pneumonia, and respiratory failure for propensity score matched patients (4:1) who underwent non-operative management vs SSSF. We characterized subgroup of patients with concurrent rib and sternal fractures who underwent concomitant SSRF-SSSF.


We identified 14,760 encounters of adults admitted with sternal fractures; 270 (1.8%) underwent SSSF. Compared to matched patients who underwent non-operative management, patients who underwent SSSF had lower odds of mortality (OR [95%CI]: 0.19 [0.06–0.62], p = 0.006). Adjusted for trauma center level, Mantel–Haenszel mortality odds remained lower for patients who underwent SSSF. Odds of pneumonia and respiratory failure were similar between matched groups. Among 46% of patients who had concomitant rib fractures, 0.3% (n = 18) underwent concurrent SSRF-SSSF and these patients survived hospitalization without pneumonia or respiratory failure.


A vast majority of patients who suffer sternal fractures undergo non-operative management. Potential mortality benefit of SSSF and concurrent SSRF-SSSF’s role for commonly concomitant rib and sternal fractures deserve further study. Our preliminary findings call for delineating heterogeneity of sternal fractures and establishing consensus SSSF indications.

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There was no funding specific to this project. We would like to thank the Neil and Claudia Doerhoff Fund for support of Dr. Choi’s scholarly activities.

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Correspondence to Jeff Choi.

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Choi, J., Khan, S., Syed, M. et al. Early National Landscape of Surgical Stabilization of Sternal Fractures. World J Surg (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00268-021-06007-5

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