Chest Wall Stabilization Leads to Shortened Chest Tube Stay Time in Rib Fracture Patients after Traumatic Chest Wall Injury

Michael T Fitzgerald, Dennis W Ashley, Hesham Abukhdeir, D Benjamin Christie
American Surgeon 2018 May 1, 84 (5): 680-683
Rib fixation has become a strategy for patients with displaced rib fractures and hemo/pneumothoraces (HTX/PTX). Rib plating improves pain control and respiratory mechanics, thereby reducing recovery times and morbidity/mortality. Current treatment consists of chest tube placement, pain control, and pulmonary toilet. The addition of rib plating should reduce time till HTX/PTX resolution and chest tube removal. The study compares chest tube stay time in rib-plated patients with those managed with current treatment. We hypothesize that patients undergoing rib plating will have a reduction in chest tube stay times. A retrospective review of a Level 1 trauma registry was performed. Rib-plated patients (n = 70) from 2013 to 2015 were compared with a randomly selected, nonoperative, injury-matched, historical (2003-2008) control group (n = 60). Demographics were obtained. Independent variables analyzed include Injury Severity Score (ISS), intensive care unit days, length of stay, and chest tube stay times. 60 control patients had an average ISS of 19 and age of 51 years, compared with ISS of 20 and age of 56 years in plated patients. Plated patients had a reduction in chest tube days, 6.5 versus 8.4 days, P value = 0.02. Plated patients had 14 intensive care unit days versus 19 days, P value = 0.09. T tests were performed to confirm significance. Reduction in chest tube days improves patient pain and allows for improved ambulation and pulmonary toilet, helping reduce respiratory complications. Our review shows that plating may prove beneficial in reducing complications associated with management of HTX/PTX in the setting of rib fractures.


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