Pioneering new surgery to help heal broken ribs is allowing riders to return to the saddle sooner.
Until now, treatment options for this common injury have been limited – time, heavy strapping and plenty of painkillers have traditionally been doctors’ orders. Ribs can take months to heal.
The Synthes Rib Matrix procedure uses advanced technology to stabilise the fracture and pull the ribs back into place. It is said to reduce healing time and ease pain considerably.
Consultant thoracic surgeon Tom Routledge, who has performed the procedure on several riders at London Bridge Hospital, said: “A small incision is made above the affected area and we insert a tailor-made titanium plate, which holds the bones in place.
“Within 24 to 48 hours after the operation, patients are more comfortable, are in better shape and are usually only in hospital for two or three days.”
Although the procedure is available on the NHS for patients with orthopaedic fractures, such as those in the knee, foot and ankle, it is currently only available privately for rib fractures. It costs in the region of £15,000.
Cleone Pengelley, 60, believes she would no longer be riding had she not had the operation.
“I fell off a broncing four-year-old 18 months ago, landed flat on my back and broke five ribs,” she told H&H.
“I went to my local hospital several times, but was told to let nature take its course. I heard about the new surgery from another doctor and had the operation last July. I was hunting again by Christmas.”
Mrs Pengelley recommended the surgery to Angie Whittington, mother of event riders Francis and Bryony, who was kicked in the back a year ago.
“I was still in agony two months after the accident and was having trouble breathing,” said Mrs Whittington.
“My ribs were smashed to pieces and were not knitting back together as they should. Without the surgery I have no doubt I would still be struggling. I was back teaching again after four weeks.”
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (30 August 2012)