Rib fractures in infants

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When it comes to cases of rib fractures among infants, the injury is not quite easy to identify especially when an infant cannot tell you what is wrong. In case an infant is suspected of trauma to the chest, it is important to consult a doctor so that proper diagnosis can be given as well as start the appropriate treatment. A rib fracture that is left untreated can lead to substantial damage to the organs.

How to identify rib fractures

In most cases, you might have no idea that the ribs of an infant have been fractured until an X-ray, MRI or CT scan was performed in order to diagnose the issue. The region of the chest where the fracture occurred might be swollen, bruised and tender to the touch. The baby might be wheezing while breathing or there is a crackling sound while breathing. In addition, deep breaths can be painful, thus the child might be fussy and irritable.

What are the possible causes?

Most cases of rib fractures are due to child abuse. In studies conducted, it was discovered that fractured ribs on many infants were due to child abuse but some cases were broken accidentally. Other infants who have rib fractures were due to certain conditions such as rickets, prematurity and osteogenesis imperfecta. The rib fractures can also be caused by intense coughing episodes such as during whooping cough. In addition, it is uncommon that a rib fractures during birth or if CPR was performed.

Rib fracture
A rib fracture that is left untreated can lead to substantial damage to the organs.


It is important to note that pain relief is the only treatment required. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used to provide quick relief for infants, but it is vital to consult a doctor to determine the right dosage which is based on the weight of the infant.

The application of an ice pack over the fractured region for about 10 minutes several times throughout the day can help reduce the inflammation and swelling. Just make sure that the ice is not applied directly on the skin. Make sure that the area does not become too cold. In case the rib is cracked, surgery might be required to minimize the risk for injury to the vital organs or the blood vessels.


Once an infant is suspected of abuse, it is best to get in touch with the local department of human services. If a family member becomes frustrated with a crying infant, he/she must place the child safely in a crib and ask other family members for help. Remember that it is better for the infant to cry from his/her crib than the parent to lose patience and hurt the child.

As for accidental fractures, the risk can be reduced by maintaining the cleanliness of the house and get rid of clutter on the ground in order to prevent tripping or falls while holding the infant. Always make sure that all rugs have a skid-proof base. The infant must be kept in a car seat in the vehicle and ensure that the seat is secured to the interior of the vehicle.

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