What happens to an untreated dislocated rib?

A Rib dislocation often occurs during vigorous or forceful activities such as pushing, throwing, or lifting, and when falling on an open arm or falling on the rib cage. However what happens to an untreated dislocated rib? What about an untreated fractured rib? Do they heal by themselves?

untreated dislocated rib

Dislocation of the rib, any joint for that matter, results in excruciating pain and restricted range of motion of the joint.

So, what happens to an untreated dislocated rib?

Dislocation usually occurs in the ribs, knees, shoulders, elbows, and sometimes finger bones.

A rib dislocation is a rather painful event, with symptoms including severe pain and deformity. Often, dislocations also result in ligament damage and possible tendon damage.

People who have experienced a rib dislocation should be careful when performing activities involving the ribs, as the likelihood of a recurrence of the dislocation is high.

If you believe you have a dislocated rib and can undergo the necessary treatment to repair the condition, we strongly recommend consulting your doctor. Failure to get the necessary treatment in a timely manner may lead to extensive damage and secondary infections such as pneumonia.

What happens to an untreated dislocated rib?

All dislocations require immediate medical attention to prevent fractures. An untreated dislocated rib can lead to severe problems. 

The same is true for ribs.

  • Significant pain when taking regular breaths, especially when trying to take deep breaths.
  • Increased cough and sputum
  • Pneumonia – due to difficulty or, in some cases, the absence of phlegm coughing due to the presence of pain.
  • In addition, further damage to the surrounding blood vessels and ligaments may occur.
  • In severe fractures, fragments of fractured ribs are scattered around and may pierce vital internal organs in the rib cage, leading to internal bleeding.
untreated fractureed rib

What happens untreated fractured rib?

The bones are very flexible and can withstand a lot of physical force. However, if the force is too great, the bone may break. A rib fracture or break can repair itself, provided the conditions are right for the rib fracture to heal completely. 

Learn more about the bone healing process on untreated fractured rib below.

What happens untreated fractured rib? The healing process

After a rib fracture has taken place, a blood clot forms around the fracture. Bone cells then begin to form on either side of the fracture line, moving toward the center of the fracture until the fracture heals. Once fully healed, the clot or healing tissue will be absorbed by the new cells. The entire process of fracture healing may take several weeks to several months.

Broken bones are classified according to the characteristics of the broken bone. The rib bone can be broken into two or more pieces and spread far apart, with some parts piercing some of the vital organs housed internally. For complex fractures, the surgeon will need to perform surgery. Soft tissue is likely to have been damaged by the fractured rib bone.

It depends on the fracture type.

Generally, fractures are classified as stress fractures, transverse fractures, and oblique fractures.

In oblique fractures, the bone pieces remain almost together and can repair themselves without surgical intervention. 

For transverse and oblique rib fractures, the bones must remain in the correct position to allow proper healing and prevent body part movement, which is also called immobilization. For other body parts, a cast is used to immobilize the broken bone; however, for fractured ribs, restricting movements, using a rib wrap and a wedge pillow is highly recommended

The body also needs nutrition to achieve optimal fracture healing. You need to eat healthy foods, paying particular attention to foods rich in calcium and protein, such as milk, cheese, kale, spinach and sardines, meat, though you must take care to avoid overeating. Nutritional deficiencies can delay or interfere with fracture healing.

What happens untreated fractured rib? – Complications

The incidence of rib fractures that take an unusually long time to heal or that do not rejoin together at all is about 10%.

However, one study found that such non-healing fractures were much higher in smokers and former smokers. Scientists believe this occurrence may be due to delayed blood vessel growth in the healing bones of smokers.

Plastic surgeons can use bone from other body parts, donor bone, or artificial materials (such as 3D printed bone) to fill the hole and fix the fractured rib bone.

In most cases, however, the bone will take advantage of its extraordinary regenerative ability. This means that the new rib bone that fills the fracture is very similar to the bone there before the injury, without a trace of scarring.