Innovative Procedure Significantly Reduces Chronic Pain

Severe rib fractures are typically caused by car or motorcycle crashes, falls, assaults or other blunt injuries. If left untreated, short-term consequences of rib fractures include severe pain when breathing, pneumonia and, possibly, death. Long-term consequences may include chronic pain, chest deformity and decreased lung function.

Babak Sarani, MD, FACS, FCCM, Director, Center for Trauma and Critical Care, and his team at the George Washington University Hospital perform rib plating of severely broken ribs. This reconstructive surgery is unique in that it can be performed days, weeks or months after patients have broken their ribs to treat their ongoing pain or shortness of breath. The rib plating procedure significantly reduces pain, allowing patients to reduce their pain medications, and shortens the need for hospitalization.

The operation is performed by placing the patient under general anesthesia and making incisions over the broken ribs. Titanium plates and screws are then inserted to stabilize the broken ribs, which reduces pain as well as the deformity of the ribcage as the ribs heal. While some trauma centers perform rib plating only in an acute care setting, GW's Trauma and Critical Care Center is one of very few centers that performs rib plating on past injuries.

Significantly Improved Patient Outcomes

Rib plating often results in significantly improved patient outcomes, including:

  • Decreased length of hospital stay
  • Decreased need to go to the intensive care unit
  • Decreased need for artificial ventilation/life support
  • Decreased risk of death

Sustained, significant reduction in pain has been observed in patients just one month after the procedure.

To learn more about the rib plating procedure, please call 202-677-6219.