Fractured rib cartilage is a result of a direct trauma to the rib cage. Fractured rib cartilage is usually not seen on X-rays and often missed. The diagnosis requires imaging with ultrasound, CT or MRI. Treatment is usually similar as other rib fractures and supportive.
What is a rib cartilage fracture?
The rib cartilage attaches the 1st-7th upper ribs to the sternum (breast bone). The 8-10th ribs are attached to one another via cartilage. The 11th and 12th lower ribs have no attachment. The cartilage functions as a shock absorber to the rib cage.
During trauma, the rib cartilage can break. This is like a bone break except we can not see it on x-ray because cartilage is invisible. A break through the cartilage can separate the rib from the breast bone.
Is it same as torn rib cartilage?
A torn rib cartilage is when the bony rib separates from the cartilage usually as a result of trauma.
Symptoms of rib cartilage fracture
The symptoms of a rib cartilage fracture are the same as that of a broken rib. There is often pain and swelling. This will be at the site of rib cartilage.
How is rib cartilage fracture diagnosed?
A rib cartilage fracture can not usually be seen on X-ray. The cartilage is invisible on X-ray. We can see the rib cartilage fracture on ultrasound, CT and MRI.
What does fractured rib cartilage look like on imaging?
We can often see a direct break in the cartilage on ultrasound, CT and MRI. Other signs include deformity of the cartilage and gas at the fracture site. We can also see swelling, fluid and bleeding at the site of trauma.
What else can look like fractured rib cartilage in radiology?
The diagnosis is rarely confused especially if given the history of trauma. The associated swelling and signal changes on MRI about the fracture site can be confused for infection or even tumor.
What causes a rib cartilage fracture?
Trauma is usually the direct cause. This may be from blunt forces, fall or cough and sneezing.
Is a rib cartilage fracture dangerous?
Usually not by itself. Any associated injuries like a collapsed lung or injury to blood vessels can be.
What type of doctor treats rib cartilage fracture?
Many of these fractures are seen by emergency room doctors. Other doctors like primary care can also encounter rib cartilage fractures.
Fractured rib cartilage treatment
Treatment is often conservative consisting of rest, ice, and non steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. Treatment can be surgical in rare cases.
How long does it take for broken rib cartilage to heal?
Injuries to rib cartilage heal slower than bony rib fractures. This is because the cartilage receives less blood supply. Fractures can take between 1-6 months to heal.
Fractured rib cartilage: summary
Fractured rib cartilage occurs after trauma. These fractures involve the part of the rib that is formed from cartilage. Fractured rib cartilage requires ultrasound, CT or MRI. These fractures are invisible on X-rays because cartilage is not seen on X-rays. Rib cartilage fractures are treated with conservative measures similar to other rib fractures involving the bone.