AskDefine | Define breastbone

Dictionary Definition

breastbone n : the flat bone that articulates with the clavicles and the first seven pairs of ribs [syn: sternum]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The central narrow bone in the front of the chest, connecting the collar-bone and the top ribs.



the central narrow bone in the front of the chest

Extensive Definition

The sternum (from Greek στέρνον, sternon, "chest" or breastbone) is a long, flat bone located in the center of the thorax (chest). It connects to the rib bones via cartilage, forming the rib cage with them, and thus helps to protect the lungs, heart and major blood vessels from physical trauma.
The sternum is sometimes cut open (a median sternotomy) to gain access to the thoracic contents when performing cardiothoracic surgery.


, forming the middle portion of the anterior wall of the thorax. Its upper end supports the clavicles (Collar bones), and its margins articulate with the cartilages of the first seven pairs of ribs. Its top is also connected to the Sternocleidomastoid muscle. It consists of three parts, from above downward:
In its natural position, the inclination of the bone is oblique from above, downward and forward. It is slightly convex in front and concave behind; broad above, becoming narrowed at the point where the manubrium joins the body, after which it again widens a little to below the middle of the body, and then narrows to its lower extremity. Its average length in the adult is about 17 cm, and is rather longer in the male than in the female.
In early life its body is divided in four segments, called sternebrœ (singular: sternebra).


The sternum is composed of highly vascular cancellous tissue, covered by a thin layer of compact bone which is thickest in the manubrium between the articular facets for the clavicles.


The sternum articulates on either side with the clavicle and upper seven costal cartilages.

Fractures of the sternum

Fractures of the sternum are rather uncommon. However, they may result from trauma, such as when a driver's chest is forced into the steering column of a car in a car accident. A fracture of the sternum is usually a comminuted fracture, meaning it is broken into pieces. The most common site of sternal fractures is at the sternal angle.
Sternum fractures are frequently associated with underlying injuries such as pulmonary contusions, or bruised lung tissue.

Additional images


  • Clinically Oriented Anatomy, 4th ed. Keith L. Moore and Arthur F. Dalley. pp. 66-68.
breastbone in Aymara: Tujtuka
breastbone in Catalan: Estèrnum
breastbone in Danish: Sternum
breastbone in German: Brustbein
breastbone in Spanish: Esternón
breastbone in Esperanto: Sternumo
breastbone in French: Sternum
breastbone in Croatian: Prsna kost
breastbone in Italian: Sterno
breastbone in Hebrew: עצם החזה
breastbone in Latin: Sternum
breastbone in Latvian: Krūšu kauls
breastbone in Lithuanian: Krūtinkaulis
breastbone in Dutch: Borstbeen
breastbone in Japanese: 胸骨
breastbone in Norwegian Nynorsk: Brystbein
breastbone in Polish: Mostek (anatomia człowieka)
breastbone in Portuguese: Esterno
breastbone in Slovak: Hrudná kosť
breastbone in Slovenian: Prsnica
breastbone in Serbian: Стернум
breastbone in Finnish: Rintalasta
breastbone in Swedish: Bröstben
breastbone in Telugu: ఉరోస్థి
breastbone in Thai: กระดูกอก
breastbone in Turkish: Sternum
breastbone in Ukrainian: Грудина
breastbone in Chinese: 胸骨
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