Sternal fixation for isolated traumatic sternal fractures improves pain and upper extremity range of motion

Zachary M. Bauman, Ujwal Yanala, Brett H. Waibel, Gautam K. Malhotra, Samuel Cemaj, Charity H. Evans, Lisa L. Schlitzkus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction: Sternal fractures are debilitating due to intractable pain, constant fracture movement and limited range of motion (ROM) of the upper extremities (UE). Traditional treatment comprises mainly of pain control, delaying return to daily activities. Recently, sternal fixation has gained popularity. There is, however, a lack of literature demonstrating efficacy. We report our experience of traumatically fractured sternal fixation. Methods: Following IRB approval, a retrospective chart review was completed for all patients undergoing sternal fixation by a single trauma surgeon at our Level I trauma center. Basic demographics were obtained. Primary outcomes included average cumulative pain scores, total cumulative narcotic amounts and total number of pain medication agents utilized prior to and after sternal fixation. Secondary outcome included physical therapy UE ROM before and after surgery. Paired t tests were used for comparison; significance set at p < 0.05. Results: Thirteen patients underwent sternal fixation from 8/2016 to 2/2018. Average age was 54.4 ± 20.8 years; 54% were female. All patients experienced blunt trauma; average injury severity score was 15.8 ± 10.9 and abbreviated chest injury score was 2.5 ± 0.51. Average intensive care unit/hospital length of stay was 2.3/10.2 days. Average pain scores significantly improved by a score of 3.5 postoperatively (preoperative = 7.08 ± 2.3, postoperative = 3.54 ± 2.5; p = 0.001). Total pain medications required by sternal fixation patients significantly decreased by 1 medication postoperatively (preoperative = 4.2 medications, postoperative = 3.2 medications; p = 0.002). Average narcotic requirements significantly decreased by 7.59 morphine milligram milliequivalents (MME) after sternal fixation (preoperative amount = 71.78 MME, postoperative amount = 64.19 MME; p = 0.041). Every patient had limited UE ROM preoperatively; however, all but one patient resumed full UE ROM postoperatively (p < 0.001). There were no postoperative complications. Conclusions: Sternal fixation is a safe and effective procedure resulting in improved pain, decreased narcotic requirements, and faster recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-230
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Narcotics
  • Pain
  • Range of motion
  • Sternal fixation
  • Traumatic sternal fracture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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