Slipping Rib Syndrome in Children: Natural History and Outcomes Following Costal Cartilage Excision

Robert M. MacGregor, Linda J. Schulte, Taylor C. Merritt, Martin S. Keller, Jacob D. Aubuchon, Aaron M. Abarbanell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Slipping rib syndrome (SRS) or subluxation of the medial aspect of the lower rib costal cartilages is an underdiagnosed cause of debilitating pain in otherwise healthy children. Costal cartilage excision may provide definitive symptom relief. However, limited data exist on the natural history, difficulty in diagnosis, and patient-reported outcomes for SRS in children. Methods: We performed a single-institution descriptive study using chart review and a patient-focused survey for patients who underwent surgery for SRS from 2012 to 2020. Data regarding demographics, symptoms, diagnostic workup, and patient-reported outcomes were collected. Results: Surgical resection was performed in 13 children. The median age at symptom onset was 12.5 y [IQR 9.7, 13.9], with a preponderance of girls (10, 77%). Eight patients participated in competitive athletics at the time of symptom onset. Prior to diagnosis, patients were seen by a median 3 [IQR 2, 5] providers with a median of 4 [IQR 3, 6] non-diagnostic imaging exams performed. The children included in the study underwent surgery for left (8), bilateral (4), and right (1) SRS. Two were lost to follow-up. At median post-op follow-up of 3.5 mo [IQR 1.2, 9.6], 73% (8/11) had returned to full activity. One reported non-limiting persistent pain symptoms. Conclusions: Lack of knowledge regarding SRS may result in delayed diagnosis, excessive testing, and limitation of physical activity. Operative treatment appears to provide durable relief and should be considered for children with SRS. The challenge remains to decrease the number of non-diagnostic exams and time to diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-208
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cartilage excision
  • Rib subluxation
  • Slipping rib syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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