Thoracoscopic-assisted rib plating (TARP): initial single-center case series, including TARP in the super elderly, technical lessons learned, and proposed expanded indications

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Trauma & Acute Care Surgery

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Trauma surgery & acute care open


Objectives: The application of surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRF) remains inconsistent due to evolving indications and perceived associated morbidity. By implementing thoracoscopic-assisted rib plating (TARP), a minimally invasive SSRF approach, we expanded our SSRF application to patients who otherwise might not be offered fixation. This report presents our initial experience, including fixation in super elderly (aged ≥85 years), and technical lessons learned. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study at a level 1 trauma center of admitted patients who underwent TARP between August 2019 and October 2020. Patient demographics, injury characteristics, surgical indications and outcomes are represented as mean±SD, median or percentage. Results: A total of 2134 patients with rib fractures were admitted. In this group, 39 SSRF procedures were performed, of which 54% (n=21) were TARP. Average age was 68.5±16 years. Patients had a median of 5 fractured ribs, with an average of 1 rib that was bicortically displaced, and 19% presented with 'clicking' on inspiration. Patient outcomes were a mean hospital length of stay (LOS) of 11±3.7 days, mean postoperative LOS of 8 days, and mean intensive care unit LOS of 6.6±2.9 days. Five patients were ≥85 years old with a mean age of 90.8±4.7 years. They presented with an average of 4 rib fractures, of which an average of 2.4 ribs were plated. The procedure was well tolerated in this age group with a hospital LOS of 9.4±2 days, and all five patients were discharged to a rehab facility with no in-hospital mortalities. Conclusion: Our experience incorporating TARP at our institution demonstrated feasibility of the technique and application across a broad range of patients. This approach and its application warrants further evaluation and potentially expands the application of SSRF..


Gary Zhang- Resident

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