OBJECTIVES: To define the demographic, clinical, and radiological features of patients with cough-induced rib fractures and to assess potential risk factors. PATIENTS AND METHODS: For this retrospective, single-center study, we identified all cases of cough-induced rib fractures diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, over a 9-year period between January 1, 1996, and January 31, 2005. Bone densitometry data from patients' medical records were analyzed, and T scores were used to classify patients into bone density categories. RESULTS: The mean ± SD age of the 54 study patients at presentation was 55±17 years, and 42 patients (78%) were female. Patients presented with chest wall pain after onset of cough. Rib fracture was associated with chronic cough (≥3 weeks' duration) in 85% of patients. Rib fractures were documented by chest radiography, rib radiography, computed tomography, or bone scan. Chest radiography had been performed in 52 patients and revealed rib fracture in 30 (58%). There were 112 fractured ribs in 54 patients. One half of patients had more than 1 fractured rib. Right-sided rib fractures alone were present in 17 patients (26 fractured ribs), left-sided in 23 patients (35 fractured ribs), and bilateral in 14 patients (51 fractured ribs). The most commonly fractured rib on both sides was rib 6. The fractures were most common at the lateral aspect of the rib cage. Bone densitometry was done in 26 patients and revealed osteopenia or osteoporosis in 17 (65%). CONCLUSIONS: Cough-induced rib fractures occur primarily in women with chronic cough. Middle ribs along the lateral aspect of the rib cage are affected most commonly. Although reduced bone density is likely a risk factor, cough-induced rib fractures can occur in the presence of normal bone density.
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