Rib fractures are common in trauma admissions and are associated with an increased risk of pulmonary complications, intensive care unit admissions, and mortality. Providing adequate pain control in patients with multiple rib fractures decreases the risk of adverse events. Thoracic epidural analgesia is currently the preferred method for pain control. This study compared outcomes in patients with multiple acute rib fractures treated with posterior paramedian subrhomboidal (PoPS) analgesia versus thoracic epidural analgesia (TEA).METHODS
This prospective study included 30 patients with three or more acute rib fractures admitted to a Level I trauma center. Thoracic epidural analgesia or PoPS catheters were placed, and local anesthesia was infused. Data were collected including patients' pain level, adjunct morphine equivalent use, adverse events, length of stay, lung volumes, and discharge disposition. Nonparametric tests were used and two-sided p < 0.05 were considered statistically significant.RESULTS
Nineteen (63%) of 30 patients received TEA and 11 (37%) of 30 patients received PoPS. Pain rating was lower in the PoPS group (2.5 vs. 5; p = 0.03) after initial placement. Overall, there was no other statistically significant difference in pain control or use of oral morphine adjuncts between the groups. Hypotension occurred in eight patients, 75% with TEA and only 25% with PoPS. No difference was found in adverse events, length of stay, lung volumes, or discharge disposition.CONCLUSION
In patients with rib fractures, PoPS analgesia may provide pain control equivalent to TEA while being less invasive and more readily placed by a variety of hospital staff. This pilot study is limited by its small sample size, and therefore additional studies are needed to prove equivalence of PoPS compared to TEA.LEVEL OF EVIDENCE
Therapeutic study, level IV.