Car accidents can cause many kinds of injuries, some of which can be severe.
Broken ribs are a common car accident injury that many people consider minor. Indeed, while they can be very painful, rib fractures are normally not life-threatening. However, if you have broken ribs, you should be aware of potential complications.
Rib fractures may not show up on x-rays
It is not always easy to diagnose broken ribs because small fractures are not always obvious on an x-ray. You may need additional diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI. Delaying diagnosis can increase your risk of complications.
Treatment can be challenging
Treatment for broken bones usually involves immobilizing the broken bone, but this is generally not an option for broken ribs. Traditionally, doctors treated broken ribs by wrapping a tight bandage around the patient’s chest. However, this is no longer a common practice because it restricts breathing, which can lead to further complications.
Instead, doctors generally recommend rest and pain management. During recovery, it is important to maintain proper breathing to prevent pneumonia.
Broken ribs can cause further injuries
A severely broken rib can be dangerous. Depending on the location of the break, the sharp edge of the bone can puncture your liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs or heart.
Multiple rib fractures can lead to a serious complication known as flail chest. This occurs when a portion of the ribcage separates and begins to interfere with the movement of chest muscles necessary for breathing. In some cases, flail chest requires surgery to stabilize the broken bones.
If you have sustained rib fractures in a car accident, it is important to seek medical attention immediately and follow up with your doctor if your symptoms do not improve with treatment.