Surgical Rib Fixation

Surgical Rib Fixation

Rib fixation surgery stabilizes rib fractures and may help reduce pain from fractured ribs.

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What Are My Treatment Options?

Fractured ribs, also referred to as broken or cracked ribs, are common in blunt chest wall trauma from motor vehicle accidents and falls, as well as injuries from recreational activities, such as cycling and horseback riding. Most fractured ribs are treated non-operatively with pain medication and rest. However, patients with severe rib fractures may be candidates for surgery. These patients have rib fractures with overlaying bone fragments, producing symptoms like severe rib pain, respiratory compromise, chest wall deformity, and/or a clicking sensation. 
Severe rib fractures may:

  • Make breathing, coughing and sleeping uncomfortable and difficult.
  • Require hospitalization, mechanical ventilation/intubation, and surgery.

If surgical treatment of broken ribs is required, the procedure would involve the use of titanium plates to stabilize your fractures, holding the ribs in the correct anatomic location as they heal.


What Is Surgical Rib Fixation (SRF)?

SRF is a procedure used to help hold an injured rib in place and allow for proper healing. It is increasingly becoming an accepted treatment for severe rib fractures. Studies have reported that rib fixation can benefit some patients with flail chest.

Potential advantages of SRF identified in medical publications:

  • Restored chest wall anatomy allowing patients to breathe normally3
  • Reduced days on ventilator4,5,6
  • Reduced stay in the intensive care unit4,5
  • Reduced overall hospital days4,5
  • Lowered risk of pneumonia4,5

For many of my patients, once the ribs were fixed into place, the level of discomfort dropped dramatically. 
– Dr. Jeff Kaplan, Trauma Surgeon



1. Landercasper J, Cogbill TH, Lindesmith LA. Long-term Disability after flail chest injury. J Trauma.1984;24(5):410-4.
2. Simon B, Ebert J, Bokhari F, et al. Management of pulmonary contusion and flail chest: an Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma practice management guideline. J Trauma Acute Care Surgery. 2012;73(5 Suppl 4):S351-61.
3. Majercik S, Cannon Q, Granger SR, Vanboerum DH, White TW. Long-term patient outcomes after surgical stabilization of rib fractures. Am J Surg. 2014;208(1):88-92.
4. Leinicke JA, Elmore L, Freeman BD, Colditz GA. Operative management of rib fractures in the setting of flail chest: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Surg. 2013;258(6):914-21.
5. Slobogean GP, MacPherson CA, Sun T, Pelletier ME, Hameed SM. Surgical fixation vs non-operative management of flail chest: a meta-analysis. J Am Coll Surg. 2013;216(2):302-11.
6. Pieracci FM, LinY, Rodil M, Snyder M, Herbert B, Tran DK, Stoval RT, Johnson JL, Biffl WL, Barnett CC, Cothren-Burlew C, Fox C, Jurkovich, GJ, Moore EE. A prospective, controlled clinical evaluation of surgical stabilization of severe rib fractures. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2016 Feb; 80(2): 187-94.

Only a surgeon trained in rib fracture fixation can provide advice about whether rib fracture fixation surgery is right for you. See a surgeon to learn more. The performance of surgical plates and splints for the fixation and stabilization of ribs depends on the severity of the injury, age, weight, activity level and other factors. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. Each patient and surgeon must weigh the benefits of surgery against potential risks.

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