Traumatic sternal fractures occur in approximately 3% to 8% of all blunt trauma patients. Most of these fractures are treated conservatively, but a small number require operative intervention. Only a few studies have reported operative fixation
of sternal fractures, and no investigation to our knowledge has systematically reviewed the literature on this intervention.
We conducted a systematic review of the literature published from 1990 through September 2010 regarding the treatment of traumatic sternal fractures. We analyzed the available evidence regarding the surgical fixation of these fractures, the type of fixation used, the timing of the surgery, complications, and patient outcomes.
Twelve articles with 76 cases of surgically repaired sternal fractures met our study criteria. The indications for surgery, timing, and methods used for fixation were diverse. For instance, plates were used in 52 patients and wiring was selected in 24 patients for fixation. General and cardiothoracic surgeons treated the majority of sternal fractures requiring operative fixation
. No serious postoperative complications were found in our review.
Although the outcomes were generally positive, only one-half of the articles documented patient follow-up. In future studies, focus needs to be placed on long-term results and specific indications for surgery. The first step toward a standardized sternal fracture
operative trial must be a prospective study of incidence and nonoperative long-term outcomes. It is likely that as the interest and demand for plate fixation increases, the demand for orthopedic involvement with sternal fractures will also increase.