Testing the clinical validity of the Bemelman Rib Fracture Management Guideline.
Whilst surgical stabilization of rib fractures (SSRF) results in better outcomes, selection algorithms are lacking. We aimed to validate the Rib Fracture Management Guideline proposed by Bemelman. From a cohort of 792 patients with multiple rib fractures, 2 sequential cohorts were selected: 48 patients who underwent SSRF and 48 patients who managed conservatively. Admission computed tomography scans and records were reviewed by an investigator blinded to the SSRF outcome. Adherence to the Bemelman guideline, revised to take account of consensus rib fracture definitions, was tested. Fifty-seven patients had multiple rib fractures only, and 39 patients also had a flail segment. Thirty-nine patients with flail segment underwent SSRF, and 18 patients were managed conservatively. Of the patients that the guideline predicted should have received surgery, 87% did. Of those that it predicted should not receive SSRF, 98% did not. The guideline displayed a sensitivity (95% confidence interval) and specificity for predicting the fixation of 0.98 (0.89-0.9995) and 0.83 (0.70-0.93), respectively. The positive and negative predictive values for surgical fixation were 0.87 (0.76-0.92) and 0.98 (0.85-0.99), respectively. The Bemelman guideline was thus a good predictor of SSRF in retrospective cohort but should be used in conjunction with clinical judgement. Further validation is indicated in a prospective study.