A blow to the chest due to a car accident or other trauma can cause one or more ribs to break. Though painful, a rib fracture by itself is usually a relatively minor condition that does not require treatment in a hospital. However, a broken rib can lead to other complications, some of which are potentially dangerous.
A person who has been in a car accident or experienced a traumatic impact to the chest under other circumstances should be able to recognize the symptoms of a rib fracture. If such symptoms are present, the individual should seek medical attention as soon as possible in the interest of avoiding more serious complications.
Symptoms of rib fractures
According to the University of Michigan, symptoms of a rib fracture tend to get worse when the individual lies down on the affected side or applies direct pressure to the area. Pain from a rib fracture is often sharp in nature and occurs in the area of impact. The patient may observe severe pain that gets worse with coughing or even breathing.
Complications of rib fractures
The Mayo Clinic explains that complications of rib fractures often occur because a broken piece of bone ruptures the soft tissue of a vital organ. This can affect different organs depending on the level of the rib cage at which the fracture occurs. Fractures of the lower ribs are rare but can result in lacerations to the kidneys, liver or spleen. If one or more of the first three ribs break, it could cause damage to a major blood vessel, such as the aorta. A fractured middle rib could cause one of the lungs to collapse due to a puncture. Multiple fractured ribs cause the risk of complications to increase.