Surgical versus conservative treatment of flail chest. Evaluation of the pulmonary status

Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2005 Dec;4(6):583-7. doi: 10.1510/icvts.2005.111807. Epub 2005 Sep 15.


Through a prospective randomized comparative study, treatment of flail chest by a non-surgical method of packing, strapping, and mechanical ventilation vs. surgical fixation were compared. After management, stability of the chest wall occurred in 85% of the patients in the surgical group. Forty-five percent of patients in this group required ventilatory support after fixation for an average of 2 days. Whereas in the conservative group, stability occurred in 50% of their patients, and 35% of patients required ventilatory support for an average of 12 days. Chest wall deformity in the form of stove-in chest and crowding of ribs was still obvious in 9 patients among the conservatively treated group, compared to only one patient who developed chest wall deformity in the surgically treated group. The pulmonary functions tested two months after management indicated that in the surgical group the patients had a significantly less restrictive pattern. Thus, surgical fixation of a flail segment is a method of great value in the treatment of flail chest, in which stability is achieved without deformity of the chest wall and patients have less restrictive impairment of pulmonary functions.