Rib Fracture In Children
What is a rib fracture?
A rib fracture is a crack or break in one or more of your child's ribs. Your child's ribs are the bones that connect from the front of his chest to his spine (backbone). All of the bones of your child's ribs make his rib cage.
What causes a rib fracture?
A rib fracture in a child is most commonly caused by car accidents. Child abuse is also a common cause of rib fracture. Bone diseases, such as rickets or osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease), may also cause fractures in children. Rib fractures happen more often in teenagers who play contact sports, such as football or hockey. Hard coughing may lead to a rib fracture because it causes muscles to tighten.
What are the signs and symptoms of a rib fracture?
Your child may have pain in his chest, especially when he breathes deeply, coughs, or moves. You may see bruises around the area of the rib fracture.
How is a rib fracture diagnosed?
Your child's caregiver will ask about your child's injury and examine him. He will ask about his breathing and pain and will look for any signs of bleeding or bruising. Your child may need one or more of the following:
- Chest x-ray: This picture of your child's chest is used to check for broken bones. Caregivers may also use it to see how your child's lungs and heart are doing.
- CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your child's ribs. The pictures may show broken ribs and injuries to other organs. Your child may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
How is a rib fracture treated?
- NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling and pain. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask which medicine is right for your child. Ask how much he should take and when he should take it. He should take these as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding and kidney problems if not taken correctly.
- Pain medicine: Your child may be given prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you give your child his medicine.
- Deep breathing exercise: Ask your child to take a slow, deep breath. Have him hold the breath as long as he can and then exhale (breathe out). Tell your child to do this 10 times in a row every hour while he is awake. This exercise helps keep your child from getting a lung infection. Your child can brace his ribs with his hands or a pillow while he takes the deep breaths to help decrease pain.
- Rest: Your child should rest as much as possible and get plenty of sleep.
- Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on the fractured area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.
- Surgery: If many of your child's ribs are badly fractured, he may need surgery. Broken ribs may be held together with plates and screws. An injury to an organ, nerve, or blood vessel may also be treated with surgery.
What are the risks of a rib fracture?
Greater force is needed to break the bones of children than the bones of adults. This increases the risk of damage to the heart, lungs, diaphragm, liver, spleen, or other organs inside the chest. The jagged edges of a broken rib may cut or tear the lung or a blood vessel. This may cause bleeding inside your child's chest or cause one of his lungs to collapse.
When should I contact my child's caregiver?
Contact your child's caregiver if:
- Your child has a fever.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- Your child coughs a lot or coughs up thick or bloody sputum (spit).
- Your child has abdominal pain.
- Your child has trouble breathing.
- Your child's pain gets worse, even after treatment.
You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.
© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of the Blausen Databases or Truven Health Analytics.
The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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