每日跟讀#664: Surgical procedure cuts risk of pneumonia complications from broken ribs
An avid cyclist was out riding with a friend when, trying to evade a small animal that suddenly appeared out of nowhere, he was thrown from his bike. He sustained a broken leg and broken ribs, and air became trapped in his pleural cavity (the space between the chest wall and the lung). He was sent to the emergency room at the Hsinchu branch of National Taiwan University Hospital. One month later the man returned for a follow-up treatment, and told the doctors how happy he was to be able to be riding again.
According to Tu Hsiung, a doctor at the Hsinchu branch, broken ribs due to external trauma to the chest are seen frequently in the trauma clinic at the emergency room. They are often seen in senior citizens who have fallen over, people involved in bicycle accidents or those who have fallen from a height in the workplace.
In humans, the thorax is formed of the collarbone, 12 pairs of ribs to the left and right, and the breastbone and thoracic vertebrae. The ribs form a cage surrounding the chest, protecting important organs including the heart and lungs, as well as the liver to the lower right of the diaphragm and the spleen to the lower left. The ability to breathe depends upon the movement of the ribs, through the contraction of the diaphragm and the respiratory muscles.
When somebody has an accident, the first clear symptom of the patient having sustained broken ribs is localized pain. In serious cases, broken ribs can be life threatening, for example when it leads to tension pneumothorax or a hemothorax (air or blood trapped in the pleural cavity, respectively) and difficulty breathing. Acute, life-threatening complications can arise when pain makes it difficult to breathe or cough up phlegm, leading to pneumonia and eventually septic shock (blood poisoning).
The treatment for broken ribs begins with stopping the pain, to ensure that the patient feels comfortable. Efficient respiration is important if pneumonia is to be prevented. If the pain is not stopped, the patient will not want to breathe deeply, and the breathing will gradually become shallower, reducing the amount they will be able to cough. Eventually, this could lead to the development of pneumonia.
With improvements in medical treatments and increasing focus on patients’ quality of life, doctors have developed the surgical stabilization of rib fractures. The main objectives of this technique are to reduce the amount of pain the patient with broken ribs is in, to prevent the emergence of complications and to reduce the chance of mortality and the length of stay in hospital. This will help the patient to recover more quickly and to be able to return to work.
According to clinical statistics, the surgical stabilization of rib fractures procedure can significantly lower the chances of the patient developing pneumonia, reduce the treatment period and length of hospital stay by half and even cut the mortality rate by 30 percent.