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Cardiovasc Surg. 1997 Feb;5(1):48-53.

Traumatic first rib fracture: is angiography necessary? A review of 730 cases.

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Western Reserve Care System, Department of Surgery, Youngstown, OH 44501, USA.


The two most common sites of first rib fracture were at the subclavian sulcus and in the neck of the first rib, posteriorly. Five distinct mechanisms for rib fracture were identified and included: (i) posteriorly directed trauma to the upper thorax or shoulder girdle; (ii) a direct blow to the sternum and anterior chest wall; (iii) a blow fracturing the clavicle; (iv) a strong sudden contraction of the scalenus anticus muscle; and (v) radiographic findings of a first rib fracture without history of trauma. Isolated first rib fracture regardless of mechanism of injury, results in a low incidence of major vascular injury (mean 3%), although with fracture displacement, the incidence is higher. First rib fracture associated with concomitant head, thoracic, abdominal, or long bone trauma was associated with vascular injury in 24% of cases. According to this review, specific indications for subclavian artery and aortic arch arteriography in patients with traumatic first rib fracture include widened mediastinum on chest radiography, upper-extremity pulse deficit, posteriorly displaced first rib fracture, subclavian groove fracture anteriorly, brachial plexus injury and expanding hematoma.

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