Surgical stabilization of rib fractures versus nonoperative treatment in patients with multiple rib fractures following cardiopulmonary resuscitation: An international, retrospective matched case-control study

Jonne T H Prins, Esther M M Van Lieshout, Evert A Eriksson, Matthew Barnes, Taco J Blokhuis, Eva-Corina Caragounis, D Benjamin Christie, Erik R De Loos, William B DeVoe, Henk A Formijne Jonkers, Brandon Kiel, Huan-Jang Ko, Silvana F Marasco, Willem R Spanjersberg, Ying-Hao Su, Robyn G Summerhayes, Pieter J Van Huijstee, Jefrey Vermeulen, Dagmar I Vos, Michael H J VerhofstadMathieu M E Wijffels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: The presence of six or more rib fractures or a displaced rib fracture due to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) has been associated with longer hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay. Evidence on the effect of surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRF) following CPR is limited. This study aimed to evaluate outcomes after SSRF versus nonoperative management in patients with multiple rib fractures after CPR.

METHODS: An international, retrospective study was performed in patients who underwent SSRF or nonoperative management for multiple rib fractures following CPR between January 1, 2012 and July 31, 2020. Patients who underwent SSRF were matched to nonoperative controls by cardiac arrest location and cause, rib fracture pattern, and age. The primary outcome was ICU length of stay (LOS).

RESULTS: Thirty-nine operatively treated patient were matched to 66 nonoperatively managed controls with comparable CPR-related characteristics. Patients who underwent SSRF more often had displaced rib fractures (n = 28, 72% vs. n = 31, 47%; p = 0.015) and a higher median number of displaced ribs (2, P25-P75 0-3 vs. 0, P25-P75 0-3; p = 0.014). SSRF was performed at a median of 5 days (P25-P75 3-8) after CPR. In the nonoperative group, a rib fixation specialist was consulted in 14 patients (21%). The ICU LOS was longer in the SSRF group (13 days, P25-P75 9-23 vs. 9 days, P25-P75 5-15; p = 0.004). Mechanical ventilator-free days, hospital LOS, thoracic complications, and mortality were similar.

CONCLUSION: Despite matching, those who underwent SSRF over nonoperative management for multiple rib fractures following CPR had more severe consequential chest wall injury and a longer ICU LOS. A benefit of SSRF on in-hospital outcomes could not be demonstrated.A low consultation rate for rib fixation in the nonoperative group indicates that the consideration to perform SSRF in this population might be associated with other non-radiographic or injury-related variables.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: therapeutic study, level III.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-735
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number6
Early online date24 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Cite this