Why is it important to aggressively and appropriately manage rib fractures in elderly trauma patients?
Recently, an 82 year-old male suffered a fall from standing, striking his left posterior flank against a cinder block, sustaining fractures of the left 7th-11th ribs with displacement of the 8th-11th ribs, causing a moderate L hemopneumothorax. After placement of a chest tube, drainage of the hemothorax, and reinflation of the L lung, the patient was then transferred to our facility “for management of his rib fractures”. Given that this patient was going to be managed non-operatively, I found myself wondering why would this patient require transfer for such a seemingly common problem among trauma patients. Rib fractures are present in 10% of all traumas, and in 30% of chest trauma specifically. After assuming care of the patient, I quickly began to realize why this patient was given such a high level of attention. [...]