The strategy for treatment of flail chest remains controversial. Various alternatives were assessed by reviewing the records of 64 patients treated from 1991 through 2000. Patients were classified according to therapeutic approach: group 1 was 27 patients who underwent open fixation of the fractured ribs, group 2 was 19 patients managed by intermittent positive-pressure ventilation, and group 3 was 18 patients managed mainly by synchronized intermittent mandatory ventilation. Two patients initially treated by ventilation underwent successful open fixation. In group 1, ventilatory support was required in 21 (77.8%) patients postoperatively, the mean duration of ventilation was 3.1 days, mean hospital stay was 18.3 days, morbidity was 11.1% (3/27), and mortality was 11.1%. In groups 2 and 3, the mean time for stabilization of paradoxical chest wall movement was 6.6 days, and mean duration of ventilation was 7.2 days. Mortality was 27.0% (10/37) in patients treated nonsurgically; 21.0% (4/19) in group 2, and 33.3% (6/18) in group 3. In groups 2 and 3, pain control required epidural analgesia in 13 (35.1%) cases, intercostal nerve blockade in 16 (43.2%), and narcotic or nonnarcotic parenteral analgesia in 8 (21.6%). Open fixation is a successful treatment modality for traumatic flail chest.