Background: Rib fracture stabilization has become a more accepted practice although stabilization of the most cephalad ribs presents a unique challenge. We present our experience with use of a 90° drill and screwdriver to bridge these difficult rib fractures. Methods: This retrospective review included patients who underwent rib fracture stabilization from August 1, 2009, through September 30, 2012. Patients were divided into two groups: those whose procedure used the 90° device and those that did not. Data were compared using standard statistical analysis and reported as percentages and medians [interquartile ranges]. P values <0.05 were considered significant. Results: We identified 89 patients: 29 (33 %) had 90° devices used and 60 (67 %) did not. There were no differences between groups in age, sex, Trauma-Related Injury Severity Score, the presence of flail chest, occurrence of pneumonia, and intensive care unit or hospital length of stay. The Injury Severity Score was higher in the 90° group (22 vs. 16; P = 0.03). The highest rib stabilized was different between the 2 groups (3 [2-5] vs. 5 [2-9]; P = 0.001), with more third rib stabilizations in the 90° group (38 vs. 20 %; P = 0.04) as well as more total number of ribs fixed (5 vs. 4; P = 0.001). There was no difference in operative time between the 2 groups. Conclusions: The surgical reach for rib fracture stabilization has been extended with use of a 90° drill and screwdriver. High fractures under the scapula where access is technically challenging can be stabilized without prolonging operative times.
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