This Woman Coughed So Hard She Broke her Rib

New England Journal of Medicine

A 66-year-old Massachusetts woman experienced a rare mishap, breaking a rib by coughing too hard. After being hospitalized for surgery, the woman is now much better.

In Massachusetts, an astonishing case has recently been reported, that of a 66-year-old lady who coughed so hard that it broke her rib. It all started when the woman consulted a doctor after developing a dry cough that lasted two weeks, accompanied by intense pain on her right side.

Initially, she was diagnosed with a viral respiratory infection, but her symptoms persisted even after five days of treatment. Her general practitioner noticed that she had a large bruise on her right side, more precisely between her rib cage and her hip. Also, she felt intense pain in her chest when the doctors touched her.

A CT scan of the chest and abdomen revealed that she had a displaced fracture of the ninth rib on the right side, says the report, published in the journal New England Journal of Medicine.

A displaced fracture means that the bone is broken and the two ends of the bone have separated. Analysis conducted on her nose and throat also revealed that the woman had pertussis.

Pertussis is a respiratory disease caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis. Early symptoms of the illness usually resemble those of a cold, such as a runny nose and a mild fever. But about one to two weeks later, infected people usually develop a violent cough.

An infected person may cough again and again until the air disappears from his or her lungs. In adults, pertussis may present complications, including broken ribs, as is the case in 4% of those with this disease.

This woman had been vaccinated eight years earlier against pertussis, but the effects fade over time. As explained by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a new vaccin every 10 years is necessary.

Treated with antibiotics and operated to repair her broken rib, the woman has now returned to a normal and healthy life.

Paige Driessen

Paige is an Arizona native who loves the outdoor life. She writes about a wide range of topics for The Talking Democrat