Rib fracture patterns predict thoracic chest wall and abdominal solid organ injury

Am Surg. 2010 Aug;76(8):888-91.


Blunt trauma patients with rib fractures were studied to determine whether the number of rib fractures or their patterns were more predictive of abdominal solid organ injury and/or other thoracic trauma. Rib fractures were characterized as upper zone (ribs 1 to 4), midzone (ribs 5 to 8), and lower zone (ribs 9 to 12). Findings of sternal and scapular fractures, pulmonary contusions, and solid organ injures (liver, spleen, kidney) were characterized by the total number and predominant zone of ribs fractured. There were 296 men and 14 women. There were 38 patients with scapular fracture and 19 patients with sternal fractures. There were 90 patients with 116 solid organ injuries: liver (n = 42), kidney (n = 27), and spleen (n = 47). Lower rib fractures, whether zone-limited or overlapping, were highly predictive of solid organ injury when compared with upper and midzones. Scapular and sternal fractures were more common with upper zone fractures and pulmonary contusions increased with the number of fractured ribs. Multiple rib fractures involving the lower ribs have a high association with solid organ injury, 51 per cent in this series. The increasing number of rib fractures enhanced the likelihood of other chest wall and pulmonary injuries but did not affect the incidence of solid organ injury.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Adult
  • Contusions / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / injuries
  • Liver / injuries
  • Lung Injury / complications
  • Male
  • Rib Fractures / pathology*
  • Scapula / injuries
  • Spleen / injuries
  • Sternum / injuries
  • Thoracic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / pathology