Surgical Stabilization of Rib Fractures: A Single Institution Experience

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of the American College of Surgeons








Background: Use of surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRF) has increased. Despite compelling small studies, many centers still struggle with determining criteria for intervention. We investigated the benefit of SSRF in our patients compared with nonoperative (NonOp) National Trauma Databank (NTDB) controls, specifically in the older population. Study Design: We performed a retrospective comparison of trauma patients with ≥3 and >5 rib fractures, who underwent SSRF at a tertiary care level I trauma center, with nonoperatively managed NTDB controls from equivalent level I centers between 2007 and 2014. The main outcomes measures included mortality, pneumonia, length of stay (LOS), ICU LOS, ventilator use, and tracheostomy rates. Results: Overall, SSRF patients were older, had a higher percentage of respiratory disease, and higher Injury Severity Scores (ISS). Despite more respiratory disease in SSRF patients vs NonOp (p < 0.0001), there was no difference in ventilator usage. Results of SSRF included decreases in mortality (12%, p = 0.008) and pneumonia (13%, p < 0.001) compared with NonOp on propensity score matching. On subgroup analysis of patients 65 years of age or older, ISS was higher in the SSRF group. Mortality was significantly lower for SSRF vs NonOp, even with higher frequency of respiratory disease within the group (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Patients who underwent SSRF at our institution had improved outcomes despite a higher percentage of respiratory disease, compared with patients who were managed nonoperatively nationwide. Mortality rates improved for patients aged 65 and older, suggesting that this patient population may benefit more from SSRF.