How is pain managed in patients with rib fracture?

Updated: Jun 13, 2017
  • Author: Sarah L Melendez, MD; Chief Editor: Trevor John Mills, MD, MPH  more...
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Answer

Pain control is fundamental to the management of rib fractures to decrease chest wall splinting and alveolar collapse in order to clear pulmonary secretions. Patients with minor rib injuries able to cough and clear secretions may be discharged with adequate analgesic medications. Intercostal nerve blocks provide pain relief without affecting respiratory function, although risks of this procedure include intravascular injection and pneumothorax. A small percentage of rib fractures do not heal even though a fibrous capsule may envelope the fracture. A nonunion may present months to years after injury and can cause discomfort with respiration due to movement of the fracture site.


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