Rib Fracture: Symptoms, Recovery Time and Surgical Implants

Strong blunt forces, such as a fall from a height, a car accident, or a blow with a baseball bat, are the most common causes of rib fractures. However, elderly adults with osteoporosis may occasionally just need a little power (such as that involved in a mild fall).

Although the fracture is rarely significant, the force that created it might occasionally result in other issues, like a bruised lung (pulmonary contusion) or a collapsed lung ( pneumothorax). Sometimes, a fracture of the lower ribs is accompanied by damage to the liver or spleen. The likelihood of harm to the lungs or other organs increases with the number of broken ribs.

How will you know if you have Rib Fracture?

If numerous nearby ribs are shattered in multiple locations, flail chest may ensue. When someone breathes, a portion of their chest wall splits from the rest and moves in the opposite direction of the remainder of the wall. This condition is known as flail chest. It becomes harder and more exhausting to breathe. A strike that causes a flailing chest typically also damages the lung below the affected location.

Common causes of Rib Fracture

The 12 pairs of ribs that wrap around the chest are unique to humans. A trauma, such as a car crash, a fall from a height, or an accident during contact sports, might cause you to fracture one or more ribs. Even repetitive actions in sports like golf can cause rib fractures. Rarely, violent coughing can break ribs, especially in older adults and those with osteoporosis or cancers that weaken bones.

How will you know if you have Rib Fracture?

types of rib fracture

Broken ribs are uncomfortable and may hurt when you breathe. Additionally, they can potentially harm internal organs if they are fractured badly.

  • A shattered rib causes severe chest pain. However, it’s not a heart attack.
  • It will hurt more if you touch the broken part of your rib.
  • When you take a deep breath, your chest will hurt more.
  • If you twist your body, the agony will worsen.
  • Laughing or coughing will hurt. Depending on the reason, bruising might also be present.


There are two main types of Rib Fractures:

Simple Rib Fractures

A break in the rib that does not result in considerable respiratory difficulty is referred to as a simple rib fracture. Simple rib fracture patients typically appear with acute pain and soreness at the site of the injury, are unable to breathe deeply or cough because of the pain, have increased respiratory rates, and breathe very shallowly.

Serious Rib Fractures

A major rib fracture is one that significantly affects breathing and produces respiratory discomfort. This injury is serious and hazardous. Respiratory discomfort is a common symptom in patients with severe rib fractures. The lack of oxygen may cause their skin to start to turn bluish. The rate of their breathing and heartbeat both quicken. They might develop a flail chest fracture if their injury is severe enough.

Flail Chest

One of the most severe and serious types of rib fractures is the flail chest. The breathing pattern that results in this kind of injury gives rise to the phrase “flail chest.” Instead of swelling as a typical chest would during inspiration, the rib cage contracts. At least three broken ribs in the front and back are normally required for an injury to be severe enough to cause a flail chest. Rib fractures are typically caused by blunt force trauma.

Seek immediate help from doctors in case of Rib Fractures

A doctor should examine any rib injuries. In addition to getting evaluated to see if there has been any other harm, you will need counsel on how to manage your discomfort.

Other injuries could complicate your rib fracture. Large blood arteries carrying blood to and from the heart may be hurt by upper rib fractures. It is typical for rib fractures to injure the lung directly, which can occasionally result in bleeding into the chest cavity or a collapsed lung. Liver and spleen damage can result from lower rib fractures.

A condition known as “flail chest” may occur if three or more adjacent ribs have been broken or cracked in two places. When you have a flail chest, your top ribs detach from the rest of the chest wall and are unable to maintain their shape while you breathe. A pulmonary contusion, or lung bruise, brought on by a flail chest can result in significant lung problems and respiratory failure.

If you have a rib fracture and any of the following are present, you should consult a doctor very away.

  • Increasing shortness of breath
  • Trouble breathing deeply or coughing
  • Fever
  • Unusual cough, or a cough that produces mucus or blood
  • Feeling dizzy or weak
  • Abdominal pain


How is a  Rib Fracture diagnosed?

A broken rib can be difficult to perceive, in contrast to a broken toe or arm. It’s recommended to see a doctor if you suspect you could have a cracked rib so they can run imaging tests to look for any damaged bones.

Chest X-ray

Large breaks can be seen with an X-ray. However, it might not be able to clearly show little hairline fractures.

Chest CT Scan

Smaller fractures that an X-ray might miss might occasionally be seen by a chest CT scan.

Bone Scan

A tiny amount of radioactive dye is injected into a vein in order to do a bone scan. The dye sometimes referred to as a tracer, can be found using scanning technology. The tracer tends to assemble in regions where bone repair is occurring, such as a fracture site. In order to identify stress fractures brought on by repetitive action, a bone scan can be extremely useful.

Treatment of Rib Fracture 

A physical exam and a chest X-ray can both help a doctor determine how serious your rib fracture is. If you have a complex accident, the doctor might prescribe additional tests, such as a CT scan, to help identify any associated injuries.

The majority of patients with rib fractures are advised to take care of themselves before being discharged. A broken rib will typically heal on its own in six weeks. Compression wraps are no longer recommended by doctors for treating rib fractures because they might limit breathing, which can induce pneumonia or even a partial lung collapse.

Recovery time of broken rib

The natural healing process for broken ribs takes about six weeks. You ought to refrain from any actions that can aggravate your rib pain throughout this time. Sports and hard lifting are therefore off the table. Stop doing it right now and wait till you’re healed if you feel any discomfort near your ribs.

To avoid a buildup of mucus in your lungs while you are recuperating, it is necessary to sometimes move your shoulders and walk around. Cough if necessary to empty your lungs, even though it can hurt. When you cough, try pressing a cushion across your chest to lessen the discomfort.

Surgery Option for Rib Fracture

Only the most complicated situations, such as when the damage has made breathing so difficult that a ventilator is required, may necessitate surgery for rib fractures. Rib stabilization surgery, which employs plates and screws to stabilize the ribs so the patient may breathe normally while healing, is a specialty of surgeons.

Implants used in Rib Fractures

Intramedullary K-wires and heavy sutures were used in the initial surgical approaches for fixing rib fractures, but these procedures had a high rate of implant failure, hardware migration, and rotational instability. In the past, non-locking plate fixation was also employed, however, there was a high rate of screw loosening and hardware failure because of the cyclic thoracic wall movement during respiration. Since then, implants made specifically for fixing rib fractures have been created.


The choice of implant is an important factor that decides the success of surgical techniques for rib fracture fixation. Implants should be reliable and easy to use. With this concern, Zealmax Ortho delivers a wide range of orthopedic implants which is a popular choice of surgeons around the world. They are competitive in price and made of premium grade material including stainless steel, titanium, and peek.

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