What could be the cause of my premature infant's broken ribs?
I can't be completely sure what has caused your infant
's rib fractures but I can make a pretty good guess, and it has nothing to do with anyone abusing your son. Infants born prematurely often have very weak bones and will get fractures with even normal handling. This is because at the time of birth
the bones of preemies have less calcium deposited than if they had been born later. Then there is the problem of getting in the calories and calcium to do the catch-up growing and hardening of the bones. I'm sure you remember how hard it was to get feedings going with your little guy. Added to that is the fact that the activity of the parathyroid gland that regulates calcium is slower to get in gear in the preemie. Finally, some of the medicines that are used and very much needed to help with lung and heart function for the early-born child actually pull calcium out of the body.
So it's unfortunately not uncommon for these weak bones to break. The good news is that they mend well: Any lumps or bumps present now over those ribs will smooth over and not be noticeable at all. At delivery, your doctor applied the forceps around the baby's head to assist in getting him out. It would be almost impossible for the forceps to get near the rib area, so a rib fracture is nearly unheard-of in that circumstance. Rib fractures can occur if the infant
is in severe distress at birth
and requires chest compressions as part of a major resuscitation effort. In that case, be glad your son is with us as the procedure probably saved his life.