How to Identify Fractured Ribs

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It can be hard to tell if someone's ribs are fractured unless you carry a portable x-ray machine in your pocket. But ignoring fractured ribs can be dangerous. This article will teach you the signs and symptoms of broken ribs.

Things You'll Need

  • Your eyes
  • Your ears
  • Your hands

The most obvious sign of fractured ribs is pain following a trauma or injury to the chest. Sometimes the pain increases when you take a deep breath, or when you push on the painful area.

Broken or fractured ribs can also cause a unique sound, called crepitus. With crepitus, you can actually hear the broken pieces of rib creaking or rubbing against each other. To hear crepitus, put your ear close to the patient's chest, or have someone to the same thing to you if are the patient.

In a simple rib fracture, the chest may not look any different. But when the ribs are broken in more than one spot, you may notice uneven chest movements when breathing, or part of the chest or back may look "caved in".

Fractured ribs can puncture other organs, such as the lungs or liver. If a patient has severe difficulty breathing or pain in the abdomen after trauma to the ribcage, that can be a sign of severely fractured ribs.

If you suspect a rib fracture, keep the patient still. Do not tape or bind the chest. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Fractured ribs can lead to many complications, some deadly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Doctors can't do much for "cracked" ribs, other than offer pain killers and sympathy.
  • But with more severely fractured ribs, doctors will take measures to make sure the sharp rib ends don't damage organs.
  • Don't tape or bind the chest of someone with fractured ribs. Doctors rarely do this anymore, as it can get in the way of breathing and healing.

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