Rib Fracture

A rib fracture is a break in a rib bone. Bruised muscles and ligaments often happen with a rib fracture. With a rib fracture, the lungs and other organs can be injured. More than one rib fracture after a trauma can indicate serious internal injury.

  • Causes

    Rib fractures are caused by:

    • A direct blow to the rib
    • Crushing of the chest, such as in contact sports or a car accident
    • Severe coughing incidents that can occur with lung problems or at high altitude
    • Rib fractures in young children are often a sign of abuse

  • Definition


    A rib fracture is a break in a rib bone. Bruised muscles and ligaments often happen with a rib fracture. With a rib fracture, the lungs and other organs can be injured. More than one rib fracture after a
    trauma
    can indicate serious internal injury.

    Multiple Rib Fractures with Damage to Lung
    broken ribs resized
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. Your chest, lungs, and back will be examined.

    Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

    • Chest x-ray
    • CT scan
    • MRI scan

  • Prevention

    Sometimes rib fractures cannot be prevented. To reduce your chance of fracturing a rib:

    • Wear protective equipment, such as rib pads, when playing contact sports.
    • Avoid over-training.
    • Learn the proper technique for exercise and sporting activities.

    • Maintain strong bones by:


      • Getting plenty of
        calcium
        in your diet
      • Doing weight-bearing exercise
      • Not smoking

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your risk of breaking a rib include:

    • Age: 65 years and older
    • Difficulty doing activities of daily living
    • Playing contact sports
    • Having weak bones

    • Having a chronic
      cough

    • Extreme repetitive upper body activity, such as in:

      • Throwing athletes
      • Basketball players
      • Golfers
      • Rowers
      • Weight lifters

    • Having an occupation involving a lot of overhead
      lifting
    • Having a history of rib or chest fracture

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • Pain in the ribs or upper chest area
    • Pain when coughing
    • Swelling and bruising in the fracture area
    • Severe local tenderness in the fracture area
    • Internal bleeding
    • Pain while breathing

  • Treatment

    Treatment includes: