The diagnostic utility of rib series in assessing rib fractures

Emerg Radiol. 2014 Apr;21(2):159-64. doi: 10.1007/s10140-013-1177-x. Epub 2013 Dec 3.


Rib series rarely add information to the posteroanterior (PA) film for the diagnosis of rib fractures. In this investigation, we evaluated the utility of rib X-rays using turnaround time (TAT), radiation exposure, and cost-efficiency as the key parameters. This investigation was conducted from January 2008 to December 2012. We included patients who had rib series performed for suspected rib fractures. TAT for patients was calculated from the time exam was ordered by the emergency department (ED) physician/staff to time the report was finalized by the attending radiologist. Effective radiation dose for rib series was calculated as a summation of radiation dose from the standard rib series images for each patient. Cost-efficiency was determined based on the number of interventions that took place as a result of a complicated study. Our investigation consisted of 422 patients, 208 females aged (57 ± 20.8) and 214 males aged (48 ± 17.3). A total of 74(17.5 %) abnormal findings were noted, out of which only 1(0.23 %) underwent management change. The mean turnaround time for patients undergoing rib series had a value of 133.5 (±129.8) min as opposed to a single chest PA of 61.8(± 64) min. Average effective radiation dose for a rib series was 0.105 (±0.04) mSv, whereas average effective radiation dose of a single chest PA was 0.02 mSv. Dedicated rib series has a low-yield diagnostic value as it pertains to management change. The overall impact on patient care based on our findings is small when compared to the risks associated with prolonged TAT, repeated exposure to radiation, and extensive medical costs.

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiography
  • Rib Fractures / diagnostic imaging*
  • Rib Fractures / economics
  • Ribs / diagnostic imaging*
  • Time Factors