The rib cage can be affected by a variety of pathologies, which can be broadly categorized into traumatic, infectious, neoplastic, and congenital conditions. Here are some examples:
Rib Fractures: These are common injuries often caused by blunt force trauma, such as in a car accident or fall. Rib fractures can lead to serious complications like pneumothorax (collapsed lung), hemothorax (blood in the pleural space), and damage to other thoracic organs.
Flail Chest: This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a segment of the rib cage breaks due to trauma and becomes detached from the rest of the chest wall. It can impair breathing and cause severe pain.
Osteomyelitis: This is an infection of the bone that can affect the ribs. It’s usually caused by bacteria, often Staphylococcus aureus.
Tuberculosis: This infectious disease primarily affects the lungs but can also involve the ribs.
Bone Metastases: Cancer that originates in another part of the body, such as the breast, lung, or prostate, can spread (metastasize) to the ribs.
Primary Bone Tumors: While rare, tumors can originate in the rib cage. Examples include osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing’s sarcoma.
Pectus Excavatum: Also known as “funnel chest,” this condition is characterized by a sunken sternum and adjacent cartilages. It’s the most common congenital chest wall deformity.
Pectus Carinatum: Also known as “pigeon chest,” this condition is characterized by a protrusion of the sternum and ribs. It’s less common than pectus excavatum.
Costochondritis: This is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the sternum, causing chest pain.
Tietze Syndrome: Similar to costochondritis, this condition involves inflammation of the costochondral joints of the chest, but it also includes swelling.
Slipping Rib Syndrome: This is a condition where the lower ribs slip and move, leading to pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen.
Osteoporosis: This condition, characterized by weakened bones, can affect the ribs and make them more susceptible to fractures.
These conditions can cause a variety of symptoms, including pain, difficulty breathing, and visible deformities of the chest wall. Diagnosis often involves physical examination, imaging studies, and sometimes biopsy. Treatment depends on the specific condition and can range from conservative management (pain control, physical therapy) to surgery.