This study aimed to identify the prevalence and characteristics of rib fractures in ex-preterm infants.
Infants born at <37 weeks’ gestation and admitted before 2011 to 3 regional neonatal units were identified from admission registers. For 2 centers, these data were available from 2000 onward and, for another center, from 2005. Electronic records were searched to identify chest radiographs performed up to age 1 year. Chest radiograph reports were then reviewed for evidence of rib fractures, and the case notes of all affected individuals were scrutinized.
Of the 3318 eligible preterm infants, 1446 had a total of 9386 chest radiographs. Of these infants, 26 (1.8%) were identified as having a total of 62 rib fractures. Their median (range) gestation at birth was 26 weeks (23–34). The median chronological age of these infants at the time of the radiograph was 14 weeks (5 weeks to 8 months). The median corrected gestational age at the time of the radiograph was 39 weeks (34 weeks to 4 months). Of the 62 fractures, 27 (36%) were sited posteriorly, and 15 (53%) of the infants with posterior rib fractures were diagnosed with osteopathy of prematurity. Classic risk including conjugated hyperbilirubinemia and diuretics, were present in 23 of 26 (88%) infants. A full skeletal survey was performed in 8 of 26 (31%). Investigations for nonaccidental injury occurred in 4 of 26 (15%) cases.
Evidence of rib fractures is present in ∼2% of ex-preterm infants. The evaluation of these fractures in infancy requires a detailed neonatal history irrespective of the site of rib fracture.