What Do You Do If a Rib Crack during CPR

Passersby, even those who’ve undergone CPR training, will tell you they won’t touch a victim because they fear they’ll break the patient’s ribs when resuscitating.

What if a rib crack during CPR and your rescuing attempts do more damage than good to you victim?

Well, ribs do crack more frequent than you’d imagine. And in no instance of ribs broken during CPR does the passerby intend to harm the victim. It is often an accident that occurs in haste to save a victim.

If you still doubt it, here are the stats to prove it.

How Frequently do Ribs Crack during CPR?

Hands-only compressions should be executed around 2 inches deep for adults, if you really want to help save them.

Anything less than that won’t apply enough pressure to push the blood to circulate well around the body.

Yet it takes an entire sixty pounds of force to compress the chest of a human 2 inches deep.

And while we’ve seen that it is relatively easy to crack a victim’s rib, the popular stat is that 30% of the patients suffer breakage or fractures during Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.

But a 2018 study that featured in The Resuscitation Journal disagreed that this percentage is a bit exaggerated.

The research examined data from over 2,100 subjects, male and female (patients), who were issued CPR for non-trauma-linked cardiac arrest. Here are the findings:

Skeletal chest injuries; mals – 86%, females- 91%.    

Sternum cracks: males – 59% , females- 79%.           

Rib fractures: males – 77%, females – 85%.

Sternocostal disjointing: males- 33%, females – 12%.

Females,  People of Age, and Individuals with Small  Body Frames Are at a Higher Risk

The above figures reveal females are at a higher risk and are likelier to suffer skeletal chest harm than males.

More findings suggest that people of age at prone to such injuries than younger ones.

Some bone-weakening health conditions like osteoporosis may also increase the chance of injury.

What’s more, physically huge as well as obese persons are less likely to suffer bone fractures during CPR than small-bodied individuals.

In another Korea-based research, victims who were resuscitated by passersby were more susceptible to rib fractures than those who got attended to by medics or physicians.

What Happens If You Feel a Rib Crack?

When executing performing CPR, you may hear or feel a cracking under your hands. In most cases, it is the cartilage in the ribs or sternum cracking, and not the victim’s ribs as many rescuers think.

But there’s also a chance the ribs may crack or break, and this may be off-putting or distressing to a life-saver.

As unpleasant as this experience is, experts advise that you do not stop executing CPR on a victim if you hear or feel a rib break.

And while broken ribs and related injuries may be painful and extend to a victim’s span of recovery —it is way better than losing their lives, which will undoubtedly happen if you seize executing CPR.

The Verdict

The fear of fracturing a person’s ribs or causing harm shouldn’t stop you from administering CPR.

Medics have solutions to broken ribs during CPR, and Good Samaritan laws exist all over the US protect passersby who give CPR.

You will not face legal charges if the patient is not happy with the way you administered CPR after you acted in good faith and was not compensated. The law also considers the fact that you are/were not a trained medic.

Final Note

The anxiety surrounding the situation and vigorous of executing CPR poses a high risk of injury to cardiac arrest victims.

But on any day, any human would take injury over death, unless the former is almost equal to the latter which Resuscitation cannot lead to.

What’s more, because you are a life-saver, you must think positive; your goal is to help the victim recover, and if you are successful they may live to see many more years and ignore the small fracture you caused saving their life.