A rib fracture is a break in a rib bone. This typically results in chest pain that is worse with inspiration. Bruising may occur at the site of the break. When several ribs are broken in several places a flail chest results. Potential complications include a pneumothorax, pulmonary contusion, and pneumonia.
Rib fractures usually occur from a direct blow to the chest such as during a motor vehicle collision or from a crush injury. Coughing or metastatic cancer may also result in a broken rib. The middle ribs are most commonly fractured. Fractures of the first or second ribs are more likely to be associated with complications. Diagnosis can be made based on symptoms and supported by medical imaging.
Pain control is an important part of treatment. This may include the use of paracetamol (acetaminophen), NSAIDs, or opioids. A nerve block may be another option. While fractured ribs can be wrapped, this may increase complications. In those with a flail chest, surgery may improve outcomes. They are a common injury following trauma.