What If Ribs Break During CPR?

During CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), rib fractures can occur due to the force applied during chest compressions. While rib fractures are a known risk, it is important to remember that CPR is a life-saving procedure, and the benefits outweigh the potential complications.

If you’re wondering what if ribs break during CPR, this article delves into the causes and the potential complications that may arise. Additionally, it provides essential information on how to handle rib fractures if they occur during CPR, ensuring both the rescuer and the patient are well-informed.

Possibility of Rib Fractures during CPR

CPR is crucial for saving lives as it helps maintain blood flow to vital organs during cardiac arrest. Although uncommon, the force used during chest compressions can cause ribs to break. Despite this risk of what if ribs break during CPR, resuscitation significantly increases the chances of survival. It sustains organ function until professional help arrives or the heart is restarted. Immediate intervention is necessary to prevent irreversible damage caused by the lack of oxygen-rich blood.

Because of the force used during chest compressions, rib fractures during CPR can happen. Despite being quite uncommon, the danger does exist. But, the chance of rib fractures is outweighed by the possible advantages of CPR in preserving a person’s life. In cardiac arrest, it’s crucial to concentrate on giving them efficient chest compressions to keep their blood flowing since quick action greatly enhances their survival chances.

Causes of Rib Fractures during CPR

The hard chest compressions used during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can occasionally cause rib fractures. This may occur due to the compression force used on the ribs, particularly in cases when the recipient of CPR has weak or brittle bones. Although rib fractures are a potential side effect of CPR, preserving blood flow and saving a person’s life during cardiac arrest are seen to be the more important objectives.

Force Applied during Chest compressions

A specific amount of force must be used during chest compressions in CPR to successfully pump the heart and sustain blood flow. Adult CPR normally calls for chest compression depths of 2 to 2.4 inches (5 to 6 cm), and rescuers must use enough force to compress the chest to reach this depth.

The amount of effort needed varies based on the size and build of the individual getting CPR, among other things. In certain cases, the force used might result in rib fractures, especially in those with weak or frail bones.

Fragility of Ribs in Certain Cases

Due to the fragility of their ribs, some groups, such as the elderly and those suffering from diseases like osteoporosis, may be more susceptible to rib fractures during CPR. The ribs are more prone to fractures due to decreased bone density and strength brought on by aging and osteoporosis. When external pressure is exerted during chest compressions, the weaker in these groups might increase the risks.

Potential Complications

It is essential to remember that even though these consequences are possible, the urgent need to perform life-saving CPR outweighs the dangers. Through correct technique and evaluation of the patient’s health, trained rescuers should seek to conduct CPR successfully and reduce the likelihood of complications.

Pain and discomfort for the patient

The chest compressions involved in CPR can cause pain and discomfort, especially if the person is conscious or semiconscious. However, the priority is to save their life, and the potential benefits outweigh the temporary discomfort.

Potential Damage to Internal Organs

The forceful nature of chest compressions can lead to injury to internal organs. While this is relatively rare, rescuers need to be mindful of this possibility and provide compressions with proper technique and depth to minimize the risk of organ damage.

Risk of Pneumothorax

In some cases, the force applied during chest compressions can cause a pneumothorax, which is a collapsed lung. Lung collapse results from air building up in the gap between the lung and the chest wall. Proper training and technique can help minimize this risk, but it is considered a potential complication.

Mitigating the Risk of Rib Fractures

Following established CPR guidelines, such as those provided by organizations like the American Heart Association, is crucial. These guidelines are based on extensive research and expert consensus, emphasizing techniques that maximize the chances of survival while minimizing complications. Rescuers should stay updated with the latest guidelines and receive proper CPR training to ensure they are equipped to perform effective and safe compressions.

Proper Hand Placement and Techniques for Chest Compressions

Rescuers should ensure that their hands are placed correctly on the center of the chest, between the nipples, and that they interlace their fingers to provide a firm grip. This helps distribute the force of compressions more evenly and reduces the risk of concentrated pressure on specific ribs.

Adequate depth and rate of compressions

Rescuers should aim for the recommended depth of compressions, which is around 2-2.4 inches (5-6 centimeters) for adults. This depth is sufficient to generate blood flow without excessive force that could lead to rib fractures. Additionally, maintaining an appropriate rate of compressions, typically around 100-120 compressions per minute, helps balance effectiveness with minimizing the risk of injury.

Use of CPR feedback devices and guidelines

The use of CPR feedback devices, such as those that provide real-time compression depth and rate feedback, can help rescuers achieve the correct technique and minimize the risks of what if ribs break during CPR. These devices provide immediate guidance and ensure that compressions are being performed within the recommended parameters.

Handling Rib Fractures during CPR

Rescuers need to balance the immediate need for effective CPR with the potential risks of what if ribs break during CPR. The focus should remain on providing high-quality chest compressions to maintain circulation and optimize the chances of survival. Proper training and ongoing education in CPR can help rescuers develop the skills and knowledge necessary to handle rib fractures and other potential complications effectively.

Recognizing Signs of Rib Fractures

Rescuers should be aware of the signs and symptoms that may indicate rib fractures, such as a crunching sound or sensation during compressions, visible deformity or bruising on the chest, and increased pain or discomfort reported by the person receiving CPR.

Importance of Continuing CPR despite Fractures

It is crucial to continue CPR even if rib fractures occur. The primary goal of CPR is to maintain blood flow to vital organs, and interrupting compressions to address rib fractures can significantly reduce the effectiveness of resuscitation efforts. The potential benefits of continuing CPR and the possibility of saving a life outweigh the concerns of rib fractures.

Monitoring for Signs of Complications

Rescuers should carefully monitor the person receiving CPR for any signs of complications resulting from rib fractures. These may include difficulty breathing, decreased breath sounds, worsening pain, or signs of internal bleeding. If any concerning symptoms arise, rescuers should adjust their approach accordingly, potentially seeking medical assistance if needed.

Post-CPR Care and Follow-up

The overall goal of post-CPR care and follow-up is to ensure the well-being and proper management of the individual after the resuscitation event. Open communication with healthcare professionals and adherence to their recommendations is crucial for the ongoing care and recovery of the person who received CPR with rib fractures.

Notifying Healthcare Professionals about Rib Fractures

It is important to inform healthcare professionals, such as paramedics or emergency department staff, about the occurrence of rib fractures during CPR. This allows them to assess the situation comprehensively and provide appropriate medical care.

Pain Management and Treatment Options

Rib fractures can cause significant pain and discomfort for the person who received CPR. Pain management techniques, such as administering analgesic medications or applying ice packs, can help alleviate the pain. Healthcare professionals can provide guidance on the most suitable pain management options based on the individual’s condition.

Assessing for other injuries and complications

In addition to rib fractures, other injuries or complications may arise during CPR. Healthcare professionals should thoroughly assess any additional injuries, such as lung or organ damage, and address them accordingly.

Follow-up care

Follow-up care may be necessary depending on the severity of the rib fractures and any associated injuries. This could involve additional imaging or consultation with specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons or pulmonologists, to ensure proper management and monitoring of the fractures and any potential complications.


In conclusion, CPR is critical in saving lives during cardiac arrest. Despite the potential complications, such as rib fractures, the immediate intervention provided by CPR significantly increases the chances of survival.

It is crucial for individuals to recognize the life-saving potential of CPR and seek proper training and certification. Early intervention and immediate action in cardiac arrest scenarios can make a life-or-death difference. By learning CPR, individuals can become empowered to respond effectively in emergency situations and be part of the chain of survival.