Rib fracture: Nursing

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Rib fractures happen when one or more ribs break, and usually result from direct trauma or repetitive injury.

Now, there are 12 ribs on each side of the chest, with each rib attaching posteriorly to the thoracic vertebrae, and ending anteriorly as costal cartilage. There are three types of ribs: true, false, and floating ribs. The first seven pairs of ribs are true ribs, and they attach directly to the sternum through costal cartilages. The 8th, 9th, and 10th pairs of ribs are false ribs, and they attach indirectly to the sternum through the costal cartilage of the 7th rib. The last two pairs of ribs are called floating ribs because they don’t attach to the sternum at all.

Now, the ribs form the side component of the thoracic cage, which provides support and protection for the thoracic structures, such as the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Other functions of ribs include increasing or decreasing the thoracic volume to facilitate breathing, in addition to providing attachment points for muscles.

The main cause of rib fractures is direct trauma to the chest, which can be caused by falls, child abuse, and car crashes. Rib fractures can also be caused by repetitive chest trauma, which might be due to recurrent cough or engagement in certain sports, such as golf or tennis.

Risk factors for rib fractures include modifiable ones, such as osteoporosis, engagement in contact sports, and malignant bone tumors involving the ribs; as well as non-modifiable ones, such as advanced age.


A rib fracture is a break or crack in one or more of the bones that make up the rib cage. Rib fractures can occur in one or more ribs as a result of direct trauma or repetitive injury. Risk factors include osteoporosis, engagement in contact sports, malignant bone tumors, and older age.

Symptoms of rib fractures include pain that gets worse with breathing, moving, coughing, or sneezing; as well as shallow breathing. Complications include damage to other internal organs from splintered ribs, pneumonia, or flail chest. The diagnosis involves history, physical assessment, chest X-ray, chest CT or bone scans. Some rib fractures can heal on their own, while others may require surgical stabilization of the displaced ribs.


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