Broken rib (rib fracture)

Ribs mostly break as a result of falling on the chest.

Overview

Ribs mostly break as a result of falling on the chest. More infrequently, ribs can also break without external trauma if the patient has osteoporosis. In addition to pain, shortness of breath and sometimes even an impaired flow of blood (circulatory insufficiency) can occur. A single broken rib usually heals without complications, but if several ribs are fractured this is often accompanied by other injuries.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

  • Pain
  • Shallow breathing (owing to the pain)

Other symptoms

Sharp ends of ribs can injure neighbouring organs. The heart and aorta are at particular risk, which can be life-threatening.

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Fall or blow to the chest
  • Impact to ribs
  • Osteoporosis (in some cases, coughing hard can be enough to cause a fracture)

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Precise observation and physical examination of the chest
  • X-ray
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
Possible therapies
  • Painkillers
  • Bandage/corset to support the chest
  • Operation to stabilise the fractures
  • Treatment of the accompanying injuries

What can I do myself?

Get a doctor to diagnose a rib fracture. Self-treatment is not recommended.

When to see a doctor?

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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