Pilot study of operative fixation of fractured ribs in patients with flail chest

Silvana Marasco, David Cooper, Adrian Pick, Thomas K Kossmann

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Flail chest is a serious injury in trauma with a significant mortality rate, and long-term pain and disability. Traditionally, management has consisted of internal pneumatic splinting, leading to prolonged periods of mechanical ventilation, and its attendant complications. The aim of this study was to assess the safety of operative fixation of broken ribs in flail chest using absorbable prostheses. Methods: Thirteen consecutive patients with severe flail chest injury were enrolled in this pilot study. Surgery was planned after viewing three-dimensional reconstructions of the computed tomography scans of the chest. The plates were applied to the external cortical surface of the rib after reducing the fracture. Segmentally fractured ribs were usually plated only once to convert the flail segment to simple fractured ribs and correct the paradoxical wall motion abnormality. Results: All patients had a good surgical result. On average, four ribs were fixed per patient. All patients were able to be weaned from mechanical ventilation and all patients were discharged from the hospital. There were no deaths. No plates had to be removed. In all patients, the flail chest was successfully stabilized and paradoxical chest wall movement was eliminated. Conclusion: This pilot study of operative fixation of broken ribs in patients with flail chest, using absorbable plates and screws, has shown the technique to be safe and effective. On the basis of these results, a prospective randomized trial has commenced at The Alfred Hospital, comparing this management strategy with conservative management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)804 - 808
Number of pages5
JournalANZ Journal of Surgery
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

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