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Accid Anal Prev. 2011 May;43(3):661-5. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2010.10.009. Epub 2010 Nov 12.

Rib and sternum fractures in the elderly and extreme elderly following motor vehicle crashes.

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Department of Surgery, University of California, San Diego, 200 West Arbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92103-8896, United States.


As the population ages, the need to protect the elderly during motor vehicle crashes becomes increasingly critical. This study focuses on causation of elderly rib and sternum fractures in seriously injured elderly occupants involved in motor vehicle crashes. We used data from the Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) database (1997-2009). Study case criteria included occupant (≥ 65 years old) drivers (sitting in the left outboard position of the first row) or passengers (sitting in the first row right outboard position) who were in frontal or side impacts. To avoid selection bias, only occupants with a Maximum Abbreviated Injury Scale (MAIS) 3 (serious) or greater severity injury were included in this study. Odds ratios were used as a descriptive measure of the strength of association between variables and Chi square tests were used to determine if there was a statistically significant relationship between categorical variables. Of the 211 elderly (65-79 years old) occupants with thoracic injury, 92.0% had rib fractures and 19.6% had sternum fractures. For the 76 extreme elderly (80 years or older) with thoracic injury, 90.4% had rib fractures and 27.7% had sternum fractures. Except for greater mortality and more rib fractures caused by safety belts, there were no differences between the extreme elderly and the elderly occupants. Current safety systems may need to be redesigned to prevent rib and sternum fractures in occupants 80 years and older.

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