PORTLAND, Ore. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- If you've ever broken a rib, your doctor probably told you to go home, take some pain medication, and let it heal on its own. But for patients with the worst fractures that appears to be bad advice. This surgeon has had better luck repairing those fractures in the operating room.
Gary Schaub is back on his horse a year after his jumping accident. "I think my horse kind of hopped over it and knocked me off balance, and I just got launched in the air like a guided missile," he says.
It's taken over a year for Schaub to fully recover from breaking seven ribs. He says, "The surgeons who were responsible for my care said that there's nothing you can do about broken ribs, that you'll just essentially have to go home, and they will heal." But after two weeks of internal bleeding and excruciating pain, he sought a second opinion.
"His chest was part way caved in," says John C. Mayberry, M.D., a trauma surgeon at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. "He had a deformity on his chest wall."
Dr. Mayberry is one of only a handful of surgeons in the country routinely operating to repair broken ribs. He guesses about 5 percent of people who break their ribs need surgery -- that's about 15,000 patients a year.
"Perhaps 10 days to two weeks have passed, and they're not getting better, and the ribs are still moving. That indicates that they're not healing at least very rapidly," Dr. Mayberry tells Ivanhoe.
Schaub's ribs were so far apart they may never have grown back together, so Dr. Mayberry fastened them with metal plates actually designed for the jaw.
"I woke up, and I could breathe," Schaub says. "I couldn't believe it."
Now, Dr. Mayberry uses a shorter U-shaped plate made specifically to fix ribs. About 300,000 people break their ribs each year in the United States. If you're one of them and you still feel your ribs moving, you may be a candidate for surgery. The U-plate is only being tested at OHSU for now.
This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Oregon Health & Science University
3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road
Portland, OR 97239-3098