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Rib Fractures

Ribs are long bones, but they’re not straight like a tibia or a femur. They’re curved, and we have 12 of them on each side of our chest. Their purpose is to shield and protect the heart, lungs and other organs. They’re attached to the spine at the back. Muscles that are attached to the ribs expand and contract with every breath that we take.

Causes of Rib Fractures
When we speak of a rib fracture, we’re describing a break of at least one of the bones that make up the rib cage. It’s not at all unusual to see more than one rib fracture at a time. They’re typically located anywhere from the second to the seventh ribs. The cause of these fractures is almost always blunt force trauma and crush injuries from motor vehicle crashes and falls. A fractured rib can penetrate a lung, making the situation particularly dangerous. Such a fracture might also penetrate or tear the diaphragm and cause a major disruption of breathing.

Rib Fracture Symptoms
Most rib fractures are simple in nature. Victims feel pain and tenderness at the site of the break. These fractures are painful. They hurt with every breath. When coughing, sneezing or during a case of the hiccups, the pain can be excruciating. With proper care and treatment, most rib fractures will resolve over time though. Other symptoms of rib fractures might involve the following:

  • Severe tenderness at the site of the fracture.
  • Bruising at the site of the fracture.
  • Low blood pressure due to internal bleeding.
  • Struggling to breathe in the event that a lung has collapsed or the chest has flailed.

Diagnosing Rib Fractures
Most rib fractures will be diagnosed pursuant to the patient’s medical history, examination and x-rays. If a rib fracture is suspected but not shown on x-rays, a bone scan might be performed. CT scan or MRI images should also show rib fractures. MRI images aren’t ordinarily warranted for purposes of diagnosing one or more fractured ribs, but they also have the advantage of showing any torn tissue or cartilage at the site of the fracture.

Care and Treatment of Rib Fractures
Since most fractured ribs are simple fractures. they’re going to heal on their own in six weeks to a month. Rest and icing will hasten improvement. Don’t wrap broken ribs. Wrapping them can restrict deep breathing. That only increases the chances of developing pneumonia.

Complications of Rib Fractures
If one or more ribs are fractured or displaced, the situation might become dangerous. Displaced fractures have pointed and jagged edges. Hospitalization and surgery might be required if a rib or a piece of it penetrates an organ. Flail chest is another extremely dangerous complication. This occurs after a number of consecutive ribs are fractured. A segment of the chest wall becomes separated from the rest of the chest wall and moves independently. The most definitive symptom of flail chest is when the victim breathes. The chest expands when he or she breathes, but upon exhaling, the affected area expands while the rest of the chest area contracts. Bruises to the lungs known as pulmonary contusions can then develop. The condition involves a fatality rate of 50 percent. Some flail chest victims who survive the injury suffer breathing impairment for the rest of their lives.

Contact a Louisville Personal Injury Lawyer

Insurance companies tend to be dismissive of cases involving fractured ribs. Their logic is that since you’ll eventually heal, the injuries that you suffered are barely compensable, especially in the context of pain, suffering and permanency. In many cases, nothing could be farther from the truth. If you were involved in a fall, motor vehicle collision, construction accident or other accident that was caused by the negligence of somebody else in or around Lexington, Louisville or anywhere in Kentucky or southern Indiana, contact us right away to arrange for a free consultation and case review. If we enter into a retainer agreement with you, we’ll obtain copies of all appropriate medical records, reports and bills. After that, we’ll make our own determination on the compensability of your rib injuries. Kentucky places severe limitations on how long you have to bring a lawsuit for purposes of seeking compensation for your injuries. The sooner that you retain us, the sooner we can get started on evaluating any claim that you might have.

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