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Outcomes after surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRF) have not been studied in patients with multiple rib fractures and traumatic brain injury (TBI). We hypothesized that SSRF, as compared with nonoperative management, is associated with favorable outcomes in patients with TBI.


A multicenter, retrospective cohort study was performed in patients with rib fractures and TBI between January 2012 and July 2019. Patients who underwent SSRF were compared to those managed nonoperatively. The primary outcome was mechanical ventilation-free days. Secondary outcomes were intensive care unit length of stay and hospital length of stay, tracheostomy, occurrence of complications, neurologic outcome, and mortality. Patients were further stratified into moderate (GCS score, 9–12) and severe (GCS score, ≤8) TBI.


The study cohort consisted of 456 patients of which 111 (24.3%) underwent SSRF. The SSRF was performed at a median of 3 days, and SSRF-related complication rate was 3.6%. In multivariable analyses, there was no difference in mechanical ventilation-free days between the SSRF and nonoperative groups. The odds of developing pneumonia (odds ratio [OR], 0.59; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 0.38–0.98; p = 0.043) and 30-day mortality (OR, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.11–0.91; p = 0.032) were significantly lower in the SSRF group. Patients with moderate TBI had similar outcome in both groups. In patients with severe TBI, the odds of 30-day mortality was significantly lower after SSRF (OR, 0.19; 95% CI, 0.04–0.88; p = 0.034).


In patients with multiple rib fractures and TBI, the mechanical ventilation-free days did not differ between the two treatment groups. In addition, SSRF was associated with a significantly lower risk of pneumonia and 30-day mortality. In patients with moderate TBI, outcome was similar. In patients with severe TBI a lower 30-day mortality was observed. There was a low SSRF-related complication risk. These data suggest a potential role for SSRF in select patients with TBI.


Therapeutic, level IV.



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