Quantifying and exploring the recent national increase in surgical stabilization of rib fractures

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRF) has become pivotal in the management of severe chest injuries. Recent literature supports improved outcomes and mortality in severe fracture and flail chest patients who undergo SSRF compared with nonoperative management (NOM). A 2014 National Trauma Data Bank review provided a point prevalence of 0.7% SSRF in flail patients. We hypothesize that this prevalence is increasing and that temporal, regional, and American College of Surgeons (ACS) trauma designation vary in SSRF utilization.

METHODS

Retrospective National Trauma Data Bank data were extracted for years 2007 to 2014 for patients with rib fractures. Cases were divided into SSRF versus NOM. SSRF frequencies were analyzed across year, region, and ACS level. Patient demographics, injury severity score, number of fractured ribs, and hospital characteristics were identified for multivariable analysis.

RESULTS

Between 2007 and 2014, 687,137 rib fracture patients were identified; 29,981 (4.36%) underwent SSRF. SSRF increased by 76% nationally during the review period (odds ratio [OR], 1.59; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.50–1.67; p < 0.001). Compared with the north, SSRF was used more in the west (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.57–1.71), south (OR, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.43–1.54), then midwest (OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.34–1.46; p < 0.001). Although likelihood of SSRF is higher at ACS Level I (LI) centers compared with Level II (LII) centers (OR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.65–0.69) or Level III (LIII) (OR, 0.24; 95% CI, 0.22–0.26); p < 0.001), frequency of SSRF increased dramatically at lower-level centers from 2007 to 2014 (LI, 41.4%; LII, 53.6%; LIII, 60.0%).

RESULTS

Overall SSRF mortality was 1.58% (NOM, 5.3%; p < 0.001), decreasing significantly between 2007 and 2014 (p < 0.0001). ACS LII had higher mortality than LI (OR, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.39–2.39; p < 0.0001), controlled by Injury Severity Score.

CONCLUSION

Utilization of SSRF has risen considerably nationwide. Prevalence varies by region and ACS level. Although greatest growth is occurring at LII hospitals, mortality is also the highest at these centers. Further research is needed to determine the need for regionalization of care and center of excellence designation.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE

Epidemiological study, level III.

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