Geriatric chest wall injury: is it time for a new sense of urgency?
Geriatric trauma has become an increasingly recognized management concern for trauma centers, and hospitals alike, on a national scale. The population of the United States is aging, as life expectancy rates have demonstrated a steady climb to an average of 78.8 years of expected life. With pervasive efforts of medical screening, prevention and chronic medical condition management, more elderly people will lead more active lifestyles and will be more predisposed to injury. As best practice guidelines specific for the geriatric trauma population have yet to be developed, many researchers have identified management strategies that have offset complications and mortality rates inherent to this patient population after injury. The impact of rib fractures in the 65-year and older patient population has been well documented, as have the mortality and pneumonia rates yet, historically, little attention has been directed to curtailing these adverse outcomes with more advanced treatment options. With the advent of rib plating for rib fracture fixation and chest wall stabilization, the practice paradigm for rib fracture management is shifting, as a viable operative intervention now exists. In this review, we focus on the characteristics of the geriatric trauma patient, areas of management where improvement opportunities have been identified, chest wall injury in the elderly patient, rib plating as a treatment option and offer our data to facilitate a better understanding of rib plating’s impact in the geriatric trauma patient.