Rib Fracture

(Broken Rib; Fracture, Rib)

Definition

A rib fracture is a break in a rib bone. Bruised muscles and damaged 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, a car accident, or having CPR
  • 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
  • Shortness of breath
  • Internal bleeding

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