Discrepancies in rib fracture severity between radiologist and surgeon: A retrospective review

Zachary M. Bauman, Jana Binkley, Collin J. Pieper, Ashley Raposo-Hadley, Gunnar Orcutt, Samuel Cemaj, Charity H. Evans, Emily Cantrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Chest computed tomography (CT) scans are important for the management of rib fracture patients, especially when determining indications for surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRFs). Chest CTs describe the number, patterns, and severity of rib fracture displacement, driving patient management and SSRF indications. Literature is scarce comparing radiologist versus surgeon rib fracture description. We hypothesize there is significant discrepancy between how radiologists and surgeons describe rib fractures. METHODS: This was an institutional review board-approved, retrospective study conducted at a Level I academic center from December 2016 to December 2017. Adult patients (≥18 years of age) suffering rib fractures with a CT chest where included. Basic demographics were obtained. Outcomes included the difference between radiologist versus surgeon description of rib fractures and differences in the number of fractures identified. Rib fracture description was based on current literature: 1, nondisplaced; 2, minimally displaced (<50% rib width); 3, severely displaced (≥50% rib width); 4, bicortically displaced; 5, other. Descriptive analysis was used for demographics and paired t test for statistical analysis. Significance was set at p = 0.05. RESULTS: Four hundred and ten patients and 2,337 rib fractures were analyzed. Average age was 55.6(±20.6); 70.5% were male; median Injury Severity Score was 16 (interquartile range, 9-22) and chest Abbreviated Injury Scale score was 3 (interquartile range, 3-3). For all descriptive categories, radiologists consistently underappreciated the severity of rib fracture displacement compared with surgeon assessment and severity of displacement was not mentioned for 35% of rib fractures. The mean score provided by the radiologist was 1.58 (±0.63) versus 1.78 (±0.51) by the surgeon (p < 0.001). Radiologists missed 138 (5.9%) rib fractures on initial CT. The sensitivity of the radiologist to identify a severely displaced rib fracture was 54.9% with specificity of 79.9%. CONCLUSION: Discrepancy exists between radiologist and surgeon regarding rib fracture description on chest CT as radiologists routinely underappreciate fracture severity. Surgeons need to evaluate CT scans themselves to appropriately decide management strategies and SSRF indications. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Prognostic/Diagnostic Test, level III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)956-960
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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