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All about Fractured Rib

What is a Fractured Rib?

A broken rib is medically termed a  fractured rib which mostly happens because of accidents, injuries especially on the chest, and even coughing to a major trauma can cause broken ribs. A broken rib occurs when one or more bones in the rib cage break or crack which can be very painful. If the injury is not severe then you will most probably be able to recover at home with over-the-counter medicine, icing, physiotherapy, and breathing exercises. In serious cases, surgery may be needed to join the broken bones of the rib or any organ of your body that is affected by it, because the sharp edge of a broken bone can damage important blood vessels or lungs and other adjacent organs.

What are the Types of Fractured Ribs?

The main types of fractured rib include:

Stress fracture: Stress fractures are basically the small cracks in a bone that occur because of applying repetitive force, and oversing activities such as  jumping up and down repeatedly or running long distances

Avulsion fracture: An avulsion fracture is a kind of bone failure where a bone fragment is pulled away from its main part by soft tissue that is connected to it

Comminuted fracture: Comminuted fractures are broken bones which refer to a bone that is broken in at least two different places which can be adjacent or far also. Comminuted fractures happen because of serious incidents such as car or bike accidents. In this type, surgery is common to repair the bone, and it can long time, even years to fully recover from it.

Floating fracture: Certain patterns of skeletal injuries share one common factor which is damage and discontinuity of bones above and below a particular joint.

What are the Symptoms of Fractured Ribs?

  • Pain particularly when you are breathing, coughing, or moving the injured part of the body which is your chest.
  • You will feel tenderness in the affected area when it feels some pressure
  • Bruising or discoloration on the chest.
  • Experiencing pressure on the injured area.
  • The injured part of the body i.e. the chest may seem disoriented, bent, or twisted.

What is the Cause of a Fractured Rib?

Rib fractures normally occur when your chest gets hit by something hitting your chest. Some causes of broken ribs include:

  • Accidents, especially car accidents.
  • Falling hard.
  • Injuries while playing some sport
  • Ribs  can be broken by continuous effects from sports like golf and rowing
  • Coughing hard and long can also lead to broken ribs but it’s not so common.

A few broken ribs may occur  without any kind of accident or injury, but some atraumatic breaks can be reasons such as :

  • Cancers if it spreads to your bones.
  • Severe and constant coughs.
  • Osteoporosis.

What are the Risk Factors of Fractured Ribs?

The risk factors for a broken rib include:

  • Osteoporosis. It’s a disorder where the bones lose their bulk which augments the risk of breaking a bone.
  • Sports. Playing sports, especially contact sports such as football or hockey may increase the risk of injury to the chest.
  • Cancer in a rib.
  • Rib Cancer can make bones weak and makes them more prone to breakage.

What are the Complications of Fractured Rib?

The complications of a fractured rib vary from person to person but some common complications a fractured rib can lead to are:

Organ damage: Fractured ribs mostly happen during traumas, which gives chances of you having other injuries. A fractured rib can result in serious damage to various organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen, etc.

Breathing problems: Breathing with a fractured rib can be quite difficult and  painful and most people can’t breathe as deeply as they used to before the injury

Pneumonia:  If your ribs are fractured, then you might have an increased risk of developing pneumonia.

A hole in the main artery of the body: This condition is known as the aorta where a sharp edge of a broken bone could pierce a major blood vessel, including the aorta.

How a Fractured Rib is Diagnosed?

A fractured rib can be diagnosed through the following procedures including:

X-ray: Doctors use X-rays that permit them to view the broken bones of the rib bit if the bone is cracked in a small way then it might not be detected through X-ray but it can help to diagnose a lung if it has a hole.

CT scan: This detects the cracks an X-ray can’t detect and it makes it simpler to view injuries in the blood vessels and soft tissues.

MRI:  It provides detailed images of the harm that occurred in the soft tissues and organs near the ribs. It can also aid to detect tiny cracks and breaks.

Bone scan: A bone scan is the best way to detect broken and cracked bones. A bone might be cracked after repetitive trauma, like a long spell of coughing. While performing a bone scan, a tiny amount of radioactive material is injected into your bloodstream. It goes into the bones, especially in areas where a bone is healing, and can be examined with a scanner.

What are the Treatment Options Available for Fractured Ribs?

Usually, fractured bones get repaired by themselves in a few weeks but if it does not get repaired then the fractured ribs can be treated through:

Medicines: Medicines are given as pain relievers because if you can’t breathe properly because of pain then it can cause pneumonia. If medicines taken by mouth do not work properly then shots are given to numb the nerves that pass to the ribs.

Therapy: After the pain is managed, some particular exercises can help you breathe more deeply along with repairing your broken rib.

Surgery: It’s rare to have surgery for a broken rib and it is required when you have severe internal injuries which are affecting the other organs of your body or if your bones did not heal back properly together.

Living with a Fractured Rib.

In most cases, fractured ribs get cured by themselves if you take enough bed rest and do not do any work that requires physical strength which can worsen the situation. Fractured ribs can be totally recovered but may take some time in some cases. It may affect your daily tasks and you need to take the help of others with your daily tasks. You might have to take leave for some days from your office or school/college because you won’t be able to work with a broken rib. Consult your doctor before joining your job or school/college.

Whom to Consult?

If you recently had an accident or injury in your chest then immediately meet your doctor, Also if you feel tenderness in your chest or have a breathing problem then also it is important to meet a doctor and get yourself checked to diagnose if you have a fractured rib. And if it turns out so then start your treatment immediately otherwise late detection can cause more complications.

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