Fractures of the Ribcage
Simple fractures, characterised by bruising and tenderness over the fracture site, are usually confined to one broken rib, with no underlying damage to the lungs or other internal organs. Multiple, or complicated, rib fractures will often result in the casualty having difficulty in breathing, as the chest wall is unable to move effectively. There may also be lung damage. Broken ribs are generally not strapped up because the chest needs to expand normally during breathing to reduce the risk of pneumonia.
Treating a simple broken rib
The best treatment for a simple fractured rib is to put the arm on the injured side into an arm sling and to advise the casualty to seek medical aid.
Multiple broken ribs
In a case of multiple rib fractures there may also be lung damage, where one or a number of ribs have punctured one or both of the lungs. There may also be an open break on the chest wall where ribs have sprung out. Remember that the ribs extend around the back of the casualty and there may be injuries here as well as on the front. Rib injuries may be accompanied by a sucking wound to the chest, creating a direct passage between the external environment and the lungs.
Signs and symptoms of multiple broken ribs
First Aid Treatment
If the casualty becomes unconscious, monitor the airway and breathing and place the person into the recovery position with the injured side upwards.
WarningDo not give anything to eat or drink - the casualty may need a general anaesthetic in hospital.
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