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J Emerg Trauma Shock. 2019 Apr-Jun;12(2):145-149. doi: 10.4103/JETS.JETS_72_18.

A Comprehensive Analysis of Traumatic Rib Fractures in an Acute General Hospital in Singapore.

Author information

Department of General Surgery, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Singapore.
Department of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Singapore.
Department of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Singapore.



Rib fractures are common sequelae after blunt chest wall trauma. They can occur in isolation or association with life-threatening injuries to the head, thorax, and abdomen and may be complicated by hemothorax, pneumothorax, or lung contusions. Contiguous rib fractures can result in flail chest, which is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. This study aims to compare the risk factors, treatment modalities, and outcomes between patients with flail chest and nonflail chest postblunt trauma.

Patients and Methods:

Data were retrospectively collected from all patients admitted with rib fractures from January 2016 to December 2016 to the Department of General Surgery, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Singapore. The outcomes identified were mortality, pain scores on injury day 1, 3, 5, and 7, injury severity score, duration of mechanical ventilation, worst partial pressure arterial oxygen/fraction of inspired oxygen (PaO2/FiO2) ratio, length of intensive care unit (ICU) stay, and pulmonary complications.


Motor vehicle accident was the most common cause of rib fractures (63.1%, n = 123). Patients with flail chest had more associated pneumothorax (53.8% vs. 35.2%) and lung contusions (53.8% vs. 30.2%) compared to those without flail chest and underwent more investigations such as inpatient-computed tomography scans (76.9% vs. 59.3%), interventions such as chest tube insertion (61.5% vs. 19.8%), and ICU admission (46.1 vs. 13.7%). Patients also had higher pain scores, used more analgesic modalities, and had increased inpatient mortality (30.8% vs. 4.4%).


Flail chest is associated with higher morbidity and mortality. Proactive management from a multidisciplinary team such as identification of high-risk patients in particular patients with flail chest, early admission to critical care, and protocols including multimodal pain management, respiratory support, and rehabilitation should be instituted.


Asia; emergency; flail chest; rib fracture; trauma

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