What if Ribs Break During CPR?

What if ribs break during CPR?

TL;DR: When performing CPR, rib fractures can occur due to the force needed for chest compressions. This is common and happens in about 55% of resuscitation cases. If ribs break, don’t stop CPR; continue to focus on keeping the victim alive. Adjust your technique to minimize further injury, but maintain effective compressions. Broken ribs, while serious, are less critical than ensuring blood circulation. Proper CPR training can help minimize the risk and ensure you’re prepared to handle such situations. Good Samaritan laws protect those who provide emergency aid, so don’t let fear of legal repercussions stop you from helping.

Every year, approximately 436,000 Americans experience sudden cardiac arrest. These incidents often happen in public spaces where immediate medical help isn’t readily available. In such critical moments, bystanders with varying degrees of CPR experience become the first line of defense.

While performing CPR can be lifesaving, one potential consequence is the victim’s ribs breaking. Whether the person performing CPR is a layperson or a medical professional, rib fractures can happen, and it can affect both the person administering CPR and the recipient.

So, what if ribs break during CPR? What do you do? Understanding how you’re supposed to act and proceed in this situation can help you get the best possible outcome for the victim. This article will provide valuable information on what happens when ribs break during CPR and the steps you should take afterward.

Why Rib Fractures Occur During CPR

Rib fractures during CPR are not uncommon and happen in approximately 55% of resuscitation cases. When performing CPR, rescuers must apply substantial force and pressure to effectively compress the chest and manually pump blood through the heart. This force can sometimes cause the ribs to crack.

The rib cage consists of relatively rigid bones that protect the inner organs. Although robust, the rib’s structure can withstand only so much pressure before bones fracture. During CPR, chest compressions need to be deep enough to create an adequate blood flow, which can put immense stress on the rib bones.

Who Is Most At Risk Of Rib Fractures During CPR

Some studies suggest that older people have more brittle bones and rib cages that are more prone to breaking due to age-related conditions like osteoporosis. Children have more flexible rib cages, but their smaller size means that even the necessary force for effective CPR is relatively high for their bodies, increasing fracture risk. Women are also at a higher risk of fractured ribs during chest compressions due to generally having less dense bone structure compared to men.

How To Recognize The Signs Of Broken Ribs During CPR

When performing CPR, it can be challenging to notice if the victim’s ribs crack. However, knowing the signs can help you manage the situation effectively. Some of the primary indicators are:

    • Cracking or popping sound: This often occurs when the pressure applied during chest compressions fractures the ribs. Pay attention to any unusual noises that might arise during the process.

    • Sudden looseness in the chest area:  If the chest becomes unexpectedly loose or unstable, it may indicate that the ribs have broken. This sensation can be subtle, so you must stay focused and aware of any changes in the resistance you feel while pressing down.

    • Increased swelling around the chest: Swelling indicates that there may be internal bleeding or inflammation at the injury. While swelling might not be immediately noticeable, keep an eye on the chest area for any visible changes.

Besides these specific signs, you might also notice other symptoms, such as the victim expressing pain (if conscious) or decreased effectiveness in your compressions. Rib fractures can sometimes lead to other complications, so you must be able to differentiate them from other potential injuries, such as a punctured lung or internal bleeding.

Immediate Steps if Ribs Break During CPR

The primary goal of CPR is to keep the victim alive until medical professionals can take over resuscitation. So, even if you notice or suspect that ribs have broken during CPR, it’s important not to panic and keep pumping the chest. Broken ribs can happen, especially when performing compressions correctly.

You can adjust your technique slightly to minimize further injury and continue providing effective chest compressions. Maintain the correct compression depth, but be mindful of the force you apply. Keep your hands positioned correctly, and keep the compressions smooth and rhythmic.

If another bystander is available, try alternating every two minutes so that you can rest while still doing effective compressions. The priority is the victim’s survival, and while broken ribs are concerning, they are a secondary issue compared to keeping the blood circulating. After medical professionals arrive, inform them about the broken ribs so they can take it into account during their treatment.

Medical Implications of Broken Ribs

While it might sound severe, fractured ribs are a small price to pay for surviving an otherwise fatal incident. The main goal of CPR is to keep the victim’s heart beating until professional medical help arrives, and it must not be interrupted for any reason unless the victim regains consciousness.

Short-term Effects

After regaining consciousness, the patient will likely experience significant pain and discomfort due to the broken ribs. Such an injury causes persistent pain and difficulty moving, coughing, and deep breathing.

Another immediate concern is the potential for punctured lungs or other internal injuries. Broken ribs can sometimes lead to a pneumothorax, causing breathing difficulties. Quick medical intervention is necessary to address such complications and prevent further damage.

Long-term Effects

In the long run, broken ribs may require medical intervention to ensure proper healing. That can involve:

    • Follow-up visits with a healthcare provider.

    • Imaging tests like X-rays.

    • Physical therapy to regain full range of motion.

The typical recovery process for broken ribs can range from six weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the fractures and any associated injuries. During this period, patients must avoid strenuous activities and follow a prescribed pain management plan.

Legal Protections for CPR Providers

The possibility of fracturing a victim’s ribs should never deter you from trying to help. Luckily, legal protections exist and can protect you if that ever happens. Good Samaritan laws protect those who provide help without expecting anything. They exist in many states, including Oklahoma.

These laws are not just about protection – they are about empowerment. They are in place to encourage bystanders like you to assist others in emergencies without fear of legal repercussions. Acting in good faith means you genuinely want to help the victim, and reasonable care means you perform CPR as you were trained, without reckless or grossly negligent behavior. The law recognizes that doing something is often better than doing nothing in a critical situation.

CPR Training and Preparedness

Proper CPR training and certification equip you with the skills to effectively perform chest compressions, minimizing the risk of rib fractures or other injuries. Through comprehensive CPR classes, you learn the correct hand placement, compression depth, and rhythm, all of which are crucial for reducing injury while maximizing the chances of reviving someone.

These courses also cover other life-saving techniques, such as:

    • Using an Automated External Defibrillator.

    • Providing first aid.

    • Recognizing signs of medical distress.

    • Assessing the scene before starting CPR.

    • Adjusting your technique for different age groups.

Staying prepared also means engaging in regular refreshers, hands-on practice, and CPR renewal classes to keep your skills sharp. This ongoing commitment can make a substantial difference in the quality of care you provide during medical emergencies.

Find CPR Classes In Tulsa, Oklahoma

Rib fractures can happen during CPR, but this shouldn’t scare you. While it sounds alarming, the immediate priority is to keep the heart pumping and blood flowing. Stopping CPR because of a fear of rib fractures can result in a far worse outcome. The importance of continuing CPR far outweighs the risk of broken ribs, but you can still make an effort to avoid it happening.

Start your CPR training in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and learn about the best and latest CPR practices. Training will give you the confidence to act decisively in emergencies, knowing your actions could save someone’s life. Break the barrier and schedule a CPR class today!