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StatPearls . Endowment Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.


Anatomy, Thorax, Sternum

Abdulraheem A. Altalib; kathleen H. Miao; Ritesh G. Menezes.

Author Information


The sternum is a partly T-shaped upright bone that develops the anterior section of the chest wall centrally. The sternum is separated anatomically into three segments: manubrium, body, and also xiphoid process. The sternum connect the ribs via the costal cartilages developing the anterior rib cage. The manubrium is the broad remarkable segment, the body is the center portion, and also the xiphoid process is a narrower distal segment developing the partial T-shape. The anatomical position and variations make the sternum critical bony structure of operation significance. In enhancement to the anatomy that the sternum, clinical and forensic ramifications of the sternum are likewise topics in this article.

Structure and Function

The manubrium (manubrium sterni) is quadrangular shaped with four borders. The suprasternal notch (jugular notch) is at the superior segment of the manubrium sterni. On either side, the left and also right clavicular notches room present. The clavicular notches of the sternum articulate v the medial end of each clavicle to kind the sternoclavicular joints. The manubrium sterni also articulates v the costal cartilages of the 1st pair of ribs. 
The xiphoid procedure (xiphisternum/xiphoid) is triangular shaped and forms the distal-most part of the sternum. The size and also shape of the xiphoid process are extremely variable. The is mostly cartilaginous until the period of 40 and becomes fully calcified by the age of 60. However, this age-related alters in the adult xiphoid procedure are additionally highly variable.
The sternal edge is the projection created by the junction between the manubrium sterni and also the body of the sternum. This two parts of the sternum lie in slightly different planes leading to the angulation. This angle corresponds anteriorly to the intervertebral disc in between the fourth and 5th thoracic vertebrae. This edge is likewise known together the edge of Louis.
The sternum"s primary duty is to defend the underlying mediastinum and its contents native injury. 


During the 6th developmental mainly of fetal life, the sternum develops independently from a pair of sternal bands dubbed “sternal bars” which room concentrations of mesenchymal cells on either side of the midline.<3> by the 10th mainly of intrauterine life, these 2 sternal bands arise native the parietal class of the lateral key mesoderm bilaterally, climate convert into pre-cartilaginous frameworks that migrate and fuse in a craniocaudal direction to form the sternal plate. In the 7th main of intrauterine life, the mesenchyme condenses resulting in the development of the main cartilaginous version of the 3 sternal segment (manubrium sterni, the human body of the sternum and the xiphoid process). The cartilaginous sternal model is composed of six horizontal departments known as sternebrae. The superior-most sternebra and the inferior-most sternebra eventually represent the manubrium sterni and also xiphoid process, respectively. The 4 sternebrae that lie in between represent the human body of the sternum.<3> The an initial part the the sternum to type during embryogenesis is the manubrium sterni complied with by the sternal body and the xiphoid process.   

Blood Supply and Lymphatics

The blood supply of the sternum is mainly derived from the medial horizontal branches the the right and left inner thoracic arteries i m sorry originate directly from the an initial part the the subclavian arteries bilaterally or sometimes originate indigenous a typical trunk. The interior thoracic artery provides off sternal, anterior intercostal, perforating and non-collateral branches. Sternal branches that the inner thoracic arteries which space the key branches supplying the sternum room primarily located in the intercostal spaces. Not just sternal branches but likewise perforating branches appear to add to the sternal blood supply.<4><5>

The blood supply of the sternum has a major role in the process of healing adhering to sternotomy procedures.<4> it is likewise important to know the blood supply of the sternum together sternal infections are not uncommon complying with the harvest that the interior thoracic artery because that coronary artery bypass grafting.<5>

For the venous drainage, the internal thoracic veins drainpipe into the brachiocephalic vein on every side.


There are numerous muscles (muscles that the neck, muscle of the thorax, muscle of the anterior ab wall) attached to the sternum.<1> The sternocleidomastoid, sternohyoid and sternothyroid attach to the manubrium sterni. The transversus thoracis muscle attaches come the human body of the sternum and xiphoid process. Pectoralis major is another major muscle attached to the human body of the sternum. The xiphoid procedure provides an attachment site for the diaphragm, the most essential muscle that respiration, and also the abdominal muscular including the exterior oblique, interior oblique, transversus abdominis, and also rectus abdominis muscles.

Physiologic Variants

Usually, females have actually a shorter and diluent body that the sternum when contrasted to males.

Anatomic Variations

There are countless variations in the sternum that commonly exist. Variations space most usual in the distal-most region of the sternum. Among the most prevalent sternal sport is the bifid xiphoid.

Anatomical sport of the sternal angle additionally exist, for example, the sternal angle have the right to be misplaced resulting in inaccurate counting of the ribs and also thereby resulting in errors on physical examination of the chest and also procedural errors throughout nerve blocks and needle thoracostomies. Also, a misplaced sternal angle deserve to increase the risk of sternal fracture in dull chest trauma. Sometimes an additional sternal symphysis “angle” can exist, i beg your pardon on imaging studies can mimic a sternal fracture, traumatic fissure or osteolytic lesion.<6>

Another congenital defect that the anterior chest wall surface is the sternal cleft, which outcomes from the fail of midline combination of the sternum. Depending upon the degree of separation, the sternal cleft have the right to be finish or incomplete. The sternal cleft pipeline the heart and great vessels unprotected and exposed. A small sternal cleft can be even mistaken because that a sternal fracture i m sorry is another reason why this slit is the clinical significance.<6><7>

Incomplete fusion of the cartilaginous sternal model deserve to lead come the formation of a circular shaped sternal foramen.<8> This anomaly need to not it is in mistaken for an abnormality throughout imaging studies of the thorax. Radiologists and surgeons must be well versed in the anatomical variations of the sternum. Moreover, the lack of awareness of the sternal foramen is a topic of worry for the forensic pathology or anthropologist during the forensic examination of skeleton remains.

Surgical Considerations

The sternum makes up one of the most crucial landmarks provided by surgeons for various procedures.

Median Sternotomy: Sternotomy is thought about the benchmark incision because that cardiac surgery.<9> The median sternotomy is thought about a common crucial incision whereby the operated doctor splits the sternum along the median plane, enabling the surgeon to have actually a better view the the heart, great vessels, and the lungs. It is thought about the most common osteotomy performed worldwide.<2>

Sternal Aspiration and also Sternal Biopsy: These space procedures adopted to collection specimens that bone marrow from the sternum. The sternum is a generally used website for arsenal of bone marrow due to the fact that sternal hematopoietic marrow persists throughout life.<2> examination of bone marrow is commonly indicated for the diagnosis of blood dyscrasias and also metastatic cancer.

Clinical Significance

Sternal Malformations/Defects

Cleft sternum
Pectus excavatum

Other Issues

Forensic file of the Sternum

Examination that skeletal stays for forensic functions may incorporate the check of the sternum. Frequently the forensic pathology or osteologist aims to create the forensic identity, i m sorry primarily contains ethnicity, sex, age, and also stature, the an individual from the skeletal stays subjected for examination. Stature estimate from the sternum is a relatively brand-new trend under study when compared to age estimation and also sex decision from the sternum. However, not lot is released on the decision of ethnicity native the sternum. Forensic anthropological studies are population-specific, and also various research studies on forensic to know of the sternum are performed concerning specific populations worldwide.

Sex decision from the sternum
Age estimate from the sternum

Forensic implications of Sternal Bone Marrow Aspiration Fatalities

A operation procedure-related fatality is a medicolegal death that requires additional investigation. In such cases, a meticulous forensic autopsy is necessary. A forensic autopsy instance report exists documenting a death from hemorrhage due to an iatrogenic penetrating injury of the thoracic aorta second to the procedure of bone marrow aspiration indigenous the sternum.<36> Ultrasound-guided sternal bone marrow aspiration need to be taken into consideration to minimize the danger of untoward incidents of fatal cardiovascular injury.

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<37> Utmost precautions have to be carefully taken come avoid any type of uncalled for allegations of medical negligence.