Complications of Fractured Ribs

Complications of Fractured Ribs

Rib fractures are a common injury in car accidents. And while rib fractures may not seem as serious as other injuries, they can lead to serious complications and affect your quality of life. Because of this, it’s vital to get examined by a doctor if you have a rib fracture or suspect you have one.

Auto accident specialist Robert Mitchell, MD, of Tulsa Accident Care Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is an expert in evaluating and treating rib fractures. And if you think you have a rib injury, he can perform a thorough evaluation, diagnose your injury, and help you get on the road to recovery.

In this blog, Dr. Mitchell explains the basics of rib fractures, the complications that can go along with them, and how they can be treated.

The basics of rib fractures

In a car accident — even a minor one — the force of impact can cause the body to jerk forward or backward, which can result in a number of injuries, including rib fractures.

The symptoms of a rib fracture can vary depending on the severity, but they typically include pain when breathing or coughing as well as tenderness or swelling in the affected area. Rib fractures can also cause bruising or discoloration in the affected area.

When it comes to healing from a rib fracture, it can take weeks to months, depending on the severity. General treatment for rib fractures usually includes taking pain medication, getting rest, and sometimes undergoing physical therapy.

Complications of rib fractures

While rib fractures may seem like a minor injury, they can lead to serious complications. Here are some of the most common complications:


Rib fractures can make it difficult to take deep breaths, which can lead to fluid buildup in the lungs, increasing the risk for pneumonia.

Pulmonary contusion

A pulmonary contusion is a lung injury that occurs when the lung is bruised. This can result in internal bleeding. 

Thoracic outlet syndrome

This is a condition that can occur if the blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and first rib get compressed. The symptoms can include shoulder pain, neck pain, and numbness in the fingers.

Chronic pain

Rib fractures can cause chronic pain, especially if they don't heal correctly or if there are multiple fractures.

These complications can be serious and can require medical intervention to manage. 

Seeking medical attention

If you’ve been in a car accident and suspect that you have a rib fracture, you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Our team at Tulsa Accident Care Center can examine you and determine the extent of your injuries.

Once we know the full scope of your condition, we can develop a treatment plan. For example, we may prescribe pain medication as well as recommend rest, ice, and compression. We may also recommend physical therapy or breathing exercises to help improve lung function and prevent complications.

If there are complications, Dr. Mitchell can make sure you receive the appropriate treatment. For example, if you develop pneumonia, Dr. Mitchell may prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection. Or, if you develop chronic pain, Dr. Mitchell may refer you to a pain specialist to help you manage your symptoms.

With proper treatment, you can manage your pain from a rib fracture and reduce your risk for complications. For top-tier auto accident care, call 918-205-4714 or book an appointment online with Tulsa Accident Care Center today.

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