New Treatment: Rib Plate

New rib fracture fix reduces pain, risks and recovery time
Lisa Wogan  |   July 2013   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION

If you’ve ever fractured a rib, you know one thing: It hurts. A lot. And with every single breath. That’s because you can’t immobilize your ribs, like you would a wrist, arm, ankle or leg, while the bones knit back together. Which also means, insult to injury, that recovery can take longer—sometimes six months. And that’s not all. Breathing with broken ribs risks puncturing lungs, spleen, liver or kidneys. • For the first time, there is an alternative to simply waiting and managing the pain; it’s called rib plating, which was recently approved by the FDA. Surgeons place a titanium plate, engineered to match the contours of individual ribs, across the fracture and screw it to the bone. The procedure greatly reduces pain, risk of additional injury and recovery time, and is best for patients with active lifestyles who require or would benefit from prompt recovery and multiple fractures that are not near the spine, according to Dr. Eric Vallieres, who performs the procedure at Swedish First Hill Campus, the first-in-the-region Adult Acute Rib Fracture Clinic.

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