Rib Fracture

(Broken Rib; Fracture, Rib)

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
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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

Risk Factors

Rib fractures are common in people 65 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of a rib fracture include:
  • Difficulty doing activities of daily living—generally with eldery people
  • Playing contact sports
  • Weak bones
  • Chronic cough
  • Extreme repetitive upper body activity, such as in:
    • Throwing
    • Basketball
    • Golf
    • Rowing
    • Weight lifting
  • Occupations involving a lot of overhead lifting
  • History of rib or chest fracture

Symptoms

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

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. Your chest, lungs, and back will be examined.Imaging tests can evaluate your chest and surrounding structures. These may include:

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