Thursday 18 December, 2014

Pioneering surgery heals broken ribs in days

Published On: Sun, Sep 30th, 2012 | Health | By IANS

A new surgical technique, pioneered by a consultant thoracic surgeon, slashes recovery time for broken ribs to mere days.

People can suffer broken ribs as a result of falls, road and horse-riding accidents and sports injuries. The only option was to strap up the ribs and take painkillers, while they took weeks and even months to heal.

This process causes debilitating complications such as breathing difficulties and pneumonia, and often leave the patient with a chest deformity because the ribs never heal properly.

However, Routledge’s two-hour surgical procedure called the Synthes Rib Matrix, can transform recovery time.

Instead of leaving the ribs to heal by themselves, tailor-made metal plates are pinned to the broken bones to speed up the healing process and alleviate pain.

“Ribs are like dry twigs and they can break very easily – in some cases just by coughing. This also makes them very difficult to repair. We now have the technology to stabilise the fracture, pulling the ribs back into place, which relieves the pain straight away,” says Routledge, who works at London hospitals Guy’s and London Bridge.

During the two-hour operation, the surgeon makes a small incision and inserts a titanium metal plate shaped to fit the anatomical contours of the rib.

Each ready-made plate is about half an inch wide and varies in length from two to five inches, depending on which rib it is being used for. The plate and the rib are then attached together with screws to hold the bone in place. The plates are left in the body for ever.

“Within two days, patients are in much better shape and are normally out of hospital. Pain tends to last days rather than the weeks or months associated with traditional treatment and there are fewer complications such as pneumonia, so it makes a tremendous difference,” Routledge says.

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