If you’ve ever had a rib fracture—a crack or an actual break in a rib—you know that this type of injury can cause severe pain. A hallmark of a rib fracture is that a deep breath makes the pain worse. Pain from a fractured rib can even impede your breathing, leading to a chest infection. In addition, since the rib cage protects some of your most vital organs in the chest and abdomen, a rib fracture can be associated with other injuries to internal organs and blood vessels.
While some people will be fine going to see their regular doctor with a single broken rib, those with more complex fractures, severe symptoms or injuries caused by a motor vehicle crash or fall from a height should seek care at a trauma center. "Yale New Haven Hospital’s Level 1 Trauma Center provides 24/7 access to a team of different specialists,” says Adrian Maung, MD, a Yale Medicine trauma surgeon. “If you suspect your fracture is serious, or you’re not sure, the best advice is to go to the trauma center immediately.”