Rib fracture repair has been performed at selected centers around the world for more than 50 years; however, the operative indications have not been established and are considered controversial. The outcome of a strictly nonoperative approach may not be optimal. Potential indications for rib fracture repair include flail chest, painful, movable rib fractures refractory to conventional pain management, chest wall deformity/defect, rib fracture nonunion, and during thoracotomy for other traumatic indication. Rib fracture repair is technically challenging secondary to the human rib's relatively thin cortex and its tendency to fracture obliquely. Nonetheless, several effective repair systems have been developed. Future directions for progress on this important surgical problem include the development of minimally invasive techniques and the conduct of multicenter, randomized trials.
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