Leading the Way: A High-Tech Fix for Painful Rib Fractures

When Tom Deacon fell off his roof and landed 25 feet below he thought he heard the sound of breaking branches. But the noise wasn’t a tree or bush absorbing his fall; it was the sound of his bones breaking.

He ended up with 19 broken bones, including his femur, collarbone, tailbone, spinal column, four breaks in his pelvis and nine broken ribs. Both lungs were punctured.

The Level I trauma team at CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center - Bergan Mercy went to work.

“When you see what they had to do and how I am today, you realize how good they are,” Deacon said.

He also went under the knife for a new procedure pioneered at CUMC - Bergan Mercy called chest wall reconstruction, or rib plating. The complexity of the fracture, the number of fractures and the level of pain determine who is a good candidate. Trauma surgeons at CUMC - Bergan Mercy were the first in the area to perform this life-changing alternative.

Titanium plates are placed across the breaks and locking screws hold them together. The plates “mimic” the ribs, moving as the patient breathes.

Patients who undergo this procedure have less pain – if any – and a faster return to a normal lifestyle.

“It’s a long operation,” Trauma Surgeon Michel Wagner, MD, said, “and very demanding. But most patients are very happy.”

Deacon is active again and feels great.

“I’m very lucky they were doing that rib plating procedure,” he said, and added he has no intention of going back up on a roof. “He’s pretty pieced together,” his wife, Candy Deacon, said. “There’s titanium everywhere.”

Patient Deacon