When someone is involved in a car accident, one of the worst injuries he or she might receive is a fracture to the sternum. These fractures normally are also associated with numerous other injury types, and the fracture itself may cause additional damage to the organs and tissues the bone protects.
Sternum fractures are caused by a blunt force trauma to the chest, and they are more likely to occur in accidents in which the person's airbags do not deploy or when the person is not wearing a safety belt. Between 22 and 45 percent of cases involving sternum fractures result in the death of the injured person. In addition to the fracture itself, the heart may be bruised, the lungs punctured, the aorta ruptured and the abdominal organs damaged. Most people who suffer a sternum fracture also suffer multiple rib cage fractures. Some also have vertebral column fractures and spinal cord injuries. Following a sternum fracture, people are at risk of developing osteomyelitis, a bone infection, as well as pneumonia.
There are several symptoms of a fractured sternum about which people should be aware. The injury may present with chest pain and inflammation in the injured area. The victim may experience difficulty with breathing, and there may be a grinding noise in the area. Those who believe they may have suffered a sternum fracture should seek medical attention immediately.
A sternum fracture is a very serious injury, and one for which prompt medical attention is imperative. A person who receives such a serious injury in a motor vehicle accident may want to also consult with a personal injury attorney about the situation. If the accident resulted from the negligent actions of another driver, the injured victim may be able to seek and recover damages through a personal injury lawsuit.