Outcomes After Operative Reconstruction of Symptomatic Rib Nonunions

Temi D. Ogunleye, Daniel A. Carlson, Claire N Thomas, Lisa K Schroder, Peter A. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess the outcomes of patients after rib nonunion reconstruction. Design: Retrospective case series. Setting: Level 1 trauma center. Patients/Participants: Between January 2007 and August 2019, 25 consecutive patients with 51 nonunions with disabling pain or chronic instability were treated for nonunited rib fractures. Intervention: Rib nonunion reconstructions performed using plate and screw fixation, recannalizing the medullary canal and augmented with autogenous iliac crest bone graft. Main Outcome Measurements: Patient demographics, mechanism of injury, number of rib nonunions, and postoperative radiographs were assessed. Satisfaction, patient-reported complications, return to occupation and activity, and general health measures were captured using patient questionnaires. Results: In 25 patients, 51 painful rib nonunions were surgically treated. The average length from injury to surgical rib reconstruction was 25.1 months (range = 3–118 months; median = 12 months). Follow-up was obtained in 18 of 25 patients (72%) with a mean of 46.1 months (range = 13–139 months). All ribs achieved radiographic union at an average of 12.3 weeks (range = 8–24 weeks) after surgery. Sixteen of 18 patients (89%) reported satisfaction with surgery and 15 patients (83%) reported mild to no pain at final follow-up. Five patients had complications that all resolved after subsequent treatment. Conclusions: Successful treatment of symptomatic rib nonunion is possible using rib plates in conjunction with bone grafting and has high union rates, satisfactory results, and limited complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E161-E166
JournalJournal of orthopaedic trauma
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2022

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Copyright © 2021 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • autogenous bone grafting
  • operative rib reconstruction
  • rib fixation
  • rib fractures
  • rib nonunion
  • symptomatic rib nonunion


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