Your browser does not support javascript:   Search for gard hereSearch for news-and-events here.


Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Other Names for this Disease
  • Absent sternum
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

My friend has a relative who has asternia.  What are the symptoms of asternia?  What are the treatments for this condition?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is asternia?

Asternia, also known as a complete congenital sternal cleft, is a condition in which a bone called the sternum does not form properly.  The sternum usually connects to the ribs to form the ribcage.  Individuals with asternia are missing this bone and may appear to have a rut or trench under the skin in the middle of the chest.  Most individuals with asternia have no symptoms, though some may have difficulty breathing.  Asternia is sometimes associated with other conditions, such as heart problems.  The cause of asternia is currently unknown.  Treatment consists of surgery to close the gap between the ribs.[1]
Last updated: 2/13/2013

What are the symptoms of asternia?

Most individuals with asternia do not have symptoms.  However, some may have difficulty breathing (dyspnea) or frequent infections of the respiratory tract.  Asternia is sometimes associated with other conditions, such as heart problems or skin findings (hemangiomas or skin tags).[1][2]
Last updated: 2/13/2013

How might asternia be treated?

Asternia is treated with surgery.  Surgery may be recommended to prevent breathing difficulty and to protect the organs in the chest, particularly the heart.[1][2][5842]  The type of surgery depends on the size of the gap between the ribs and the age of the affected individual.[2]  Ideally, surgery consists of closing the gap by connecting the existing bones of the chest; this is best done while the affected individual is very young.[1][5842]  For older individuals or those with a wide space between the existing bones, surgery may include placing extra material (a prosthesis, made of cartilage or bone from another part of the body or synthetic/man-made materials) to fill the gap.[1][2]
Last updated: 2/13/2013

  • Torre M, Rapuzzi G, Carlucci M, Pio L, Jasonni V. Phenotypic spectrum and management of sternal cleft: literature review and presentation of a new series. European Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery. 2012; 41:4-9. Accessed 2/12/2013.
  • Cardoso E, Sundararajan MS. Asternia with aplasia cutis: a method of repair. Thorax. 1987; 42:829-830.