When is hospitalization indicated for the treatment of rib fractures?

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

Several researchers recommend hospital admission for any patient with 3 or more rib fractures, and ICU care for elderly patients with 6 or more rib fractures. They cite the significant correlation between these findings and serious internal injuries, such as pneumothorax and pulmonary contusion. [41]

Patients with minor rib injuries able to cough and clear secretions may be discharged with adequate analgesic medications. Adequate analgesics are critical to successful outpatient management of rib fractures. [42] In one study, 19% of patients discharged with the diagnosis of rib fracture returned to the ED for unplanned follow-up; the chief complaint was insufficient analgesia (in 56%). [43]  Most patients who will develop complications will do so within 2 weeks, so a follow-up plan within 2 weeks should be made. [43, 44]


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