Follow-Up Chest X-rays in Minor Chest Trauma with Fewer Than Three Rib Fractures: A Justifiable, Habitual Re-Imaging Industry?

Healthcare (Basel). 2022 Dec 7;10(12):2471. doi: 10.3390/healthcare10122471.


Objective: We evaluated the necessity of follow-up chest X-rays (CXRs) to exclude a pneumothorax after 1 week of initial hospital presentation in patients with no signs of respiratory distress and fewer than three rib fractures. Materials and Methods: Adult patients with fewer than three fractured ribs who presented at our Level I trauma center between 2015 and 2017 were evaluated retrospectively. Patients with sternal fractures, who had suffered a polytrauma, or were primarily treated with a chest tube were excluded. The patients' and fractures' characteristics, trauma mechanism, median follow-up time, and the number of required secondary interventions were recorded. Results: This study included 249 patients, 137 (55.0%) of whom were male, with a median age of 64.34 years. In 150 patients (60.2%) one rib was affected, in 99 patients (39.8%) two ribs were affected, with the fractured ribs being true ribs (1-7) in 72 cases (28.9%), false ribs (8-12) in 151 cases (60.6%), and both in 26 cases (10.4%). The affected thorax half was the left side in 124 cases (49.8%) and both thorax halves in 4 cases (1.6%). The median follow-up time was 9 ± 4 days. In the follow-up CXRs, six patients (1.6%) required delayed intervention (tube thoracostomy): one case of hemopneumothorax and five cases of pneumothorax. All of the patients fully recovered. Conclusions: Planned CXR follow-ups revealed only a small number of complications that needed intervention and therefore seem not to be necessary. Symptom-triggered reappearance seems to be more sufficient and economical compared to habitual reimaging.

Keywords: X-ray; chest trauma; control; follow-up; rib fracture; thorax trauma.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.