Barbara Werley is a master sommelier, a trained wine steward, but a hit and run traffic accident nearly killed her and almost ended her career.
With multiple broken ribs, every breath was painful.
“I had a crushed chest, so the back rib here sort of went this way,” she said. “And from reading my reports, I had no less than 17 fractures down the ribcage.”
Her chest was crushed so badly that it took two surgeons to physically move her ribs back into place. They used titanium plates to hold the rib cage together, so she could breathe without pain.
“I think that the recent development and advent of rib fixation technology is quite a breakthrough,” said Dr. Bradley Putty, the trauma medical director at Baylor Grapevine. “For decades the medical community has struggled with how to treat these patients.”
Doctor Putty developed his techniques in the Air Force. The new biomaterials he uses are sturdy, flexible, and promote healing, making ventilators less necessary.
“Then you fix it to the different ends of the ribs by drilling and then screwing these screws in place,” he said. “Barbara has enjoyed quite a recovery. Patients do enjoy an earlier return to work and at times a return to work where they otherwise would’ve had to give up their livelihood.”
The titanium rib plates should not set off a metal detector.
They are MRI compatible, and the TSA will see them when patients walk through the x-ray machine at the airport.
REPORT: MB #4376
RIB FRACTURES: Among people who suffer traumatic chest injuries, rib fractures are one of the most common. About 20 percent of people who suffer blunt trauma to the chest will have a rib fracture, which is a crack or break in one or more of the bones that wrap around the upper body. This can occur in car accidents, falls or any traumatic event that impacts the chest. Such a fracture can often make it difficult to breathe or move. People most vulnerable to these kinds of fractures are the elderly, who are more prone to suffering flail chest; a life-threatening condition in which three or more consecutive ribs are fractured in two or more places. This condition can impede breathing.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR: It is important for a person to see their health care provider if they experience a very tender spot in the rib area that occurs after trauma, or if they have difficulty breathing or pain with deep breathing. You must seek medical attention immediately if you feel pressure, squeezing pain, or fullness in the center of the chest lasting more than a couple minutes, as well as pain that extends beyond the chest out to the shoulders or arms. These symptoms can indicate a heart attack.
SYMPTOMS/TREATMENT: Symptoms of a rib fracture include pain, which can increase when a person takes a deep breath, presses on the injured area, or bends/twists their body. Traditionally, rib fractures are treated with pain management and occasionally assisted breathing using some form of respiratory support. For more severe fractures, a surgical procedure called rib fixation can be administered. This helps keep the injured bone in place to allow for proper healing, and this procedure has shown to lower the rate of mortality and shorten hospital stays.
RIB PLATING: The latest innovation in rib fracture treatment is rib plating. It is a reconstructive surgery that uses new biomaterials, such as titanium plates, which are sturdy and flexible; to bring the rib back into alignment as the patient heals. Dr. Bradley Putty, a trauma surgeon at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Grapevine, TX is one of the doctors performing this procedure. Rib plating has shown to help treat patients’ ongoing pain and make breathing easier. It also allows them to go back to their normal lives faster following a traumatic injury.
(Source: Bradley Putty, MD)