Chronic pain and its impact on quality of life following a traumatic rib fracture

Published online in European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery on 11 April 2012

V.G. Shelat, L.T. Teo, A. Vijayan, M.T. Chiu
Trauma Service, Department of General Surgery, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore

Abstract

Purpose

Traumatic rib fiactures account for 74O 7o of trauma admissions and most of them heal spontaneously and do not contribute to disability. The prevalence of chronic pain and its impact on quality o[ life following a traumatic rib fracture has not been studied adequately.

Methods

A retrospective review of electronic medical records of all the traumatic rib fiacture admissions from January 2001 to December 2008 was conducted. This was followed up with a brief telephonic survey of the following questions: (l) Do you have pain following the trauma? (2) If YES, how severe is your pain from a score of zero to ten? (3) Does the pain affect your lif'e style? (4) Does the pain affect your work? (5) Do you need to take regular pain medications?

Results

One hundred and two patients responded to the survey and 23 patients (22.5 7o) complained of chronic persistent pain. In patients with pain, six patients (26 Vc) had chronic pain that required regular use of analgesics, eight patients (35 Vo) complained of impairment of work life, and three patients (13 o/a)c omplained of impairment of persclnal quality of life. Chronic pain was no1 related to age, number of ribs fractured, flail chest, hemothorax and/or pneumothorax, chest tube insertion, or Injury Severity Score (ISS).

Conclusion

This study confirms the high incidence of chronic pain after a traumatic rib fracture. While the majonty of the patients can manage this pain without interference  of their quality of life, a few do suffer from life style/work interference and may have to resort to regular analgesic usage.

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