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New technology for surgery helps heal broken ribs

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Ascension St. Vincent Hospital on the northside of Indianapolis is the only hospital in the state using laparoscopic surgery to repair broken ribs.

“Maybe a few years ago, if you fractured your ribs, unless you had a significant reason, three or four broken ribs or you were intubated in the intensive care unit and your chest wall wasn’t working, we wouldn’t fix your ribs,” said Ascension Thoracic surgeon Dr. Nakul Valsangkar.

New technology allows a titanium plate to be inserted through a small incision. The plate mends the broken bones.

“This blading system essentially goes through your chest through that front small incision,” said Dr. Valsangkar.

Greg Runkle, of Macy, Indiana, broke his ribs after being caught in a violent storm last summer.

“When the storm came through, I was standing by the swing. I stood up, and I’m pretty sure the roof hit me because I have a scar on my head. It knocked me over the swing and It knocked me out,” said Runkle.

Runkle endured several months of pain before finally getting the surgery.

“The surgery went smooth and the recover went good. A couple weeks after the surgery, I was feeling better,” he said.

Runkle’s wife Laura suffered multiple broken rips and a crushed hip in that same storm.

“The next thing I knew, I was being slammed to the ground from behind because a tree had fallen on top of my body,” she said.

Laura is a candidate for the laparoscopic rib surgery and expects to have the same procedure done soon. She considers herself lucky that she survived the storm.

“I will say by the grace of God I’m here.”

Dr. Valsangkar said he performed about 100 of these surgeries, and he expects to do more next year.