The Treatment of Rib Fractures: A Single-Center Comparison

Paige Farley, Parker R. Mullen, Catherine N. Taylor, Yannleei L. Lee, Charles C. Butts, Jon D. Simmons, Sidney B. Brevard, Christopher M. Kinnard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Rib fractures are a major problem characterized by pain, increased length of stay, and respiratory complications. Treatments include fixation, management with opiates, paraspinous local anesthetic pumps, and intercostal nerve blocks. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of treatment options and compare clinically relevant outcomes. Methods: Patients admitted to a Level 1 trauma center with multiple rib fractures between 2015 and 2019 were screened. We included all participants treated with surgical fixation and/or intercostal nerve block or local anesthetic pump. Patients were case-matched 1:2 by Injury Severity Score (ISS), Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) Chest and Head, age, and number of rib fractures. Outcomes assessed were hospital length of stay (LOS), intensive care unit (ICU) LOS, ventilator days, pneumonia, and tracheostomy rates. Results: We identified 25 patients who received rib fixation and intercostal analgesia. Of these, 14 cases were treated with liposomal bupivaicaine nerve block and 11 by paraspinous catheter block. Fifty control cases treated with opiates were identified. All patients survived to discharge. Cases and controls were approximately equivalent in age, ISS, number of fractured ribs, chest AIS, and head AIS. Rib-plated patients had a lower rate of pneumonia (OR 0.2029, 95% CI 0.0242, 0.09718), decreased average ICU LOS (10.62 vs 6.64, P =.018), and decreased average ventilator days (5.44 vs 1.68, P =.003). Discussion: Findings suggest more aggressive treatment of rib fractures may decrease ICU LOS, ventilator days, and pneumonia in patients with multiple rib fractures. These findings are in line with current literature; however, more research is needed in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1144-1147
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • rib fixation
  • rib fractures
  • thoracic trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'The Treatment of Rib Fractures: A Single-Center Comparison'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this