GRAPEVINE, Texas - Barbara Werley is a master sommelier, a trained wine steward, but a hit-and-run traffic accident nearly killed her.
"I had a crushed chest, so the back rib here sort of went this way, and from reading my reports, I had no less than 17 fractures down the ribcage," Werley explained.
Her chest was crushed so badly it took two surgeons to physically move her ribs back into place, and they used titanium plates to hold the rib cage together so she could breathe without pain.
"I think that the recent development and advent of rib fixation technology is quite a breakthrough," said Dr. Bradley Putty, the trauma medical director at Baylor Grapevine. "For decades, the medical community has struggled with how to treat these patients."
Putty developed his techniques in the Air Force. New biomaterials are sturdy, flexible and promote healing, making ventilators less necessary.
"Then you fix it to the different ends of the ribs by drilling and then screwing these screws in place," he said. "Barbara has enjoyed quite a recovery. Patients do enjoy an earlier return to work and at times a return to work where they otherwise would've had to give up their livelihood."
The titanium rib plates should not set off a metal detector. They are MRI-compatible, and the TSA will see them when patients walk through the X-ray machine at the airport.
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