Rib fixation in patients with severe rib fractures and pulmonary contusions: Is it safe?

Suzanne F.M. Van Wijck, Fredric M. Pieracci, Elizabeth F. Smith, Kelley Madden, Ernest E. Moore, Mathieu M.E. Wijffels, Nicole L. Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Pulmonary contusion has been considered a contraindication to surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRFs). This study aimed to evaluate the association between pulmonary contusion severity and outcomes after SSRF. We hypothesized that outcomes would be worse in patients who undergo SSRF compared with nonoperative management, in presence of varying severity of pulmonary contusions. METHODS: This retrospective cohort study included adults with three or more displaced rib fractures or flail segment. Patients were divided into those who underwent SSRF versus those managed nonoperatively. Severity of pulmonary contusions was assessed using the Blunt Pulmonary Contusion 18 (BPC18) score. Outcomes (pneumonia, tracheostomy, mechanical ventilation days, intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay, hospital length of stay, mortality) were retrieved from patients' medical records. Comparisons were made using Fisher's exact and Kruskal-Wallis tests, and correction for potential confounding was done with regression analyses. RESULTS: A total of 221 patients were included; SSRF was performed in 148 (67%). Demographics and chest injury patterns were similar in SSRF and nonoperatively managed patients. Surgical stabilization of rib fracture patients had less frequent head and abdominal/pelvic injuries ( p = 0.017 and p = 0.003). Higher BPC18 score was associated with worse outcomes in both groups. When adjusted for ISS, the ICU stay was shorter (adjusted β , -2.511 [95% confidence interval, -4.87 to -0.16]) in patients with mild contusions who underwent SSRF versus nonoperative patients. In patients with moderate contusions, those who underwent SSRF had fewer ventilator days (adjusted β , -5.19 [95% confidence interval, -10.2 to -0.17]). For severe pulmonary contusions, outcomes did not differ between SSRF and nonoperative management. CONCLUSION: In patients with severe rib fracture patterns, higher BPC18 score is associated with worse respiratory outcomes and longer ICU and hospital admission duration. The presence of pulmonary contusions is not associated with worse SSRF outcomes, and SSRF is associated with better outcomes for patients with mild to moderate pulmonary contusions. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic/Care Management; Level IV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-726
Number of pages6
JournalThe journal of trauma and acute care surgery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

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Copyright © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

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© Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.


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