What is a rib fracture?

A rib fracture is an injury most commonly caused by blunt trauma to the chest as a result of motor vehicle accidents and falls. Patients with severe rib fractures, sometimes called flail chest (fractures of at least 3 consecutive ribs, each with 2 or more fractures) have been reported in some instances to suffer from long-term pain and disability.

Discover the components that make up the skeletal thoracic anatomy (the clavicle, manubrium, sternum, cartilage, ribs, xiphoid) and view an image depicting the internal/skeletal view of the diagnosis known as flail chest.

Symptoms and Complications

  • Landercasper J, Cogbill TH, Lindesmith LA. Long-term Disability after flail chest injury. J Trauma.1984;24(5):410-4.
  • Simon B, Ebert J, Bokhari F, et al. Management of pulmonary contusion and flail chest: an Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma practice management guideline. J Trauma Acute Care Surgery 2012;73(5 Suppl 4):S351-61.
  • Majercik S, Cannon Q, Granger SR, Vanboerum DH, White TW. Long-term patient outcomes after surgical stabilization of rib fractures. Am J Surg. 2014;208(1):88-92.
  • Leinicke JA, Elmore L, Freeman BD, Colditz GA. Operative management of rib fractures in the setting of flail chest: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Surg. 2013;258(6):914-21.
  • Slobogean GP, MacPherson CA, Sun T, Pelletier ME, Hameed SM. Surgical fixation vs non-operative management of flail chest: a meta-analysis. J Am Coll Surg. 2013;216(2):302-11.
  • Pieracci FM, LinY, Rodil M, Snyder M, Herbert B, Tran DK, Stoval RT, Johnson JL, Biffl WL, Barnett CC, Cothren-Burlew C, Fox C, Jurkovich, GJ, Moore EE. A prospective, controlled clinical evaluation of surgical stabilization of severe rib fractures. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2016 Feb; 80(2): 187-94.
DSUS/CMF/0716/0587a 12/2017

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Only a surgeon trained in rib fracture fixation can provide advice about whether rib fracture fixation surgery is right for you. See a surgeon to learn more. The performance of surgical plates and splints for the fixation and stabilization of ribs depends on the severity of the injury, age, weight, activity level and other factors. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. Each patient and surgeon must weigh the benefits of surgery against potential risks.