THURSDAY, Nov. 8, 2018 (HealthDay News) — After falling in her office on Wednesday evening, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized with three broken ribs on Thursday morning.
The 85-year-old first went home, but after experiencing discomfort overnight she was admitted to George Washington University Hospital on Thursday. Once there, doctors discovered three broken ribs on her left side, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in a statement.
The Supreme Court reconvenes on Nov. 26, but injuries haven’t stopped Ginsburg from working in the past. After breaking two ribs in 2012, she never missed a day of work. That same year, she returned to work quickly after having a heart procedure performed, according to The New York Times.
Not only that, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009 and returned to work less than three weeks after having the tumor removed, ABC News reported at the time.
That history of bouncing back hasn’t eased the nerves of liberals, who worry about how much longer she can serve as the balance of the Supreme Court shifts to the right with President Donald Trump’s two recent appointees, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
“Rib fractures can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions in older persons, including lung collapse, pneumonia, internal bleeding, shock and death if not recognized and treated promptly,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
For example, one study showed that close to 20 percent of older adults who break three or four ribs die from associated complications, Glatter noted. Another showed that for each additional rib fracture in patients older than 65, the risk of pneumonia increased by 27 percent, while risk of death increased by 19 percent.
In patients with rib fractures, it’s important to manage pain while avoiding giving too much IV fluid, because that can lead to fluid overload in the lungs, also known as pulmonary edema, Glatter noted.
Wrapping the chest to reduce pain can also be dangerous because it can limit the patient’s ability to breathe and raise pneumonia risk, he added.
Recovery from broken ribs typically takes four to eight weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Ginsburg was first appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton. She is the oldest justice on the court.
Ginsburg has consistently fought for women’s rights. In 1971, she helped launch the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She served as the ACLU’s general counsel from 1973 to 1980.
In recent years, Ginsburg gained social media popularity with her own nickname, “Notorious R.B.G.” She was also the subject of a recent documentary, and a movie is being made about her life.
Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1933, according to the U.S. Supreme Court website. She married Martin Ginsburg, and together they had a daughter and a son. She received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University, and attended Harvard and Columbia law schools.
For more on broken ribs, go to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.