Background: The contribution of rib fractures to chronic pain and disability is not well described.
Methods: Two hundred three patients with rib fractures were followed for 6 months. Chronic pain was assessed using the McGill Pain Questionnaire Pain Rating Index and Present Pain Intensity (PPI) scales. Disability was defined as a decrease in work or functional status.
Results: The prevalence of chronic pain was 22% and disability was 53%. Acute PPI predicted chronic pain. Associated injuries, bilateral rib fractures, injury severity score, and number of rib fractures were not predictive of chronic pain. No acute injury characteristics were predictive of disability. Among 89 patients with isolated rib fractures, the prevalence of chronic pain was 28% and of disability was 40%. No injury characteristics predicted chronic pain. Bilateral rib fractures and acute PPI predicted disability.
Conclusion: The contribution of rib fractures to chronic pain and disability is significant but unpredictable with conventional injury descriptors.
Keywords: Chronic pain; Disability; Flail chest; Rib fractures.
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