Upon injury, there may be signs of bleeding or bruising externally as well as difficulty breathing. If you or a loved one believe you have a broken rib, consult a doctor for guidance. It's essential to get correctly diagnosed to rule out more severe injuries and learn about treatment options that can help your recovery.
After completing a physical examination where your doctor may press gently on your ribs and listen to your chest, he or she may recommend the following tests to identify fractures and the severity of injuries:1
- X-Ray: X-rays use low levels of radiation to make bones visible. X-rays often have problems revealing fresh rib fractures, especially if the bone has a small crack.1
- CT Scan: This often can uncover rib fractures that X-rays might miss. CT scans expose injuries to soft tissue and blood vessels by taking X-rays from various angles and combining them to show your body's internal structures.1
- MRI: An MRI uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to build images of the soft tissue in your chest and organs around the ribs to determine if there is damage and reveal subtle rib fractures if present.1
- Bone Scan: A small amount of radioactive material is injected into your bloodstream. It collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner to view stress fractures caused by repetitive trauma (i.e., a lot of coughing).1
Once you receive a fractured rib diagnosis from your doctor, you may have two options for treatment: conservative non-surgical treatment or surgical treatment.