Radiology/subacute fracture


I was in a car wreck 6 months ago and had chest xrays and a CT scan of the chest. I recently had a bone scan for a different reason and the report says, "healing subacute fracture of the sternum". What does subacute mean? I had terrible chest pain after the wreck from the seatbelt and the airbag, but no one discovered the fracture till the bone scan. Is it common to miss a fractured sternum on plain films and a chest CT?

Hi, Christina.

Subacute is a vaguely defined state that is clearly not acute (sudden and/or recent), but rather between acute and chronic (or long-term). In other words, the radiologist was unable to tell how old the fracture was. Bone scans show healing fractures very well.

And, yes. It is common to miss sternum fractures unless you're looking specifically for that. I'm sure it shows on the CT of your chest when the image is adjusted to view bony structures. It would be easy to miss if you only looked at lung tissue instead of examining bony structures, too.

Hope you feel better soon,


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Delia White


I am not qualified to interpret diagnostic imaging or to diagnose disease. Please consult a physician for that information. I am the photographer. I can tell you what to expect during most MRI, CT and X-ray procedures.


I now have more than 30 years experience in diagnostic imaging. My specialty is MRI. I am also very familiar with CT and the way we used to take x-rays (everything's digital now)!

I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Radiologic Technology.

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