BACKGROUND Thoracic trauma accounts for 10%-15% of all trauma admissions. Rib fractures are the most common injury following blunt thoracic trauma. Epidural analgesia improves patient outcomes but is not without problems. The use of continuous intercostal nerve blockade (CINB) may offer superior pain control with fewer side effects. This study's objective was to compare the rate of pulmonary complications when traumatic rib fractures were treated with CINB vs epidurals. METHODS A hospital trauma registry provided retrospective data from 2008 to 2013 for patients with 2 or more traumatic rib fractures. All subjects were admitted and were treated with either an epidural or a subcutaneously placed catheter for continuous intercostal nerve blockade. Our primary outcome was a composite of either pneumonia or respiratory failure. Secondary outcomes included total hospital days, total ICU days, and days on the ventilator. RESULTS 12.5% (N=8) of the CINB group developed pneumonia or had respiratory failure compared to 16.3% (N=7) in the epidural group. No statistical difference (P=0.58) in the incidence of pneumonia or vent dependent respiratory failure was observed. There was a significant reduction (P=0.05) in hospital days from 9.72 (SD 9.98) in the epidural compared to 6.98 (SD 4.67) in the CINB group. The rest of our secondary outcomes showed no significant difference. CONCLUSION This study did not show a difference in the rate of pneumonia or ventilator-dependent respiratory failure in the CINB vs epidural groups. It was not sufficiently powered. Our data supports a reduction in hospital days when CINB is used vs epidural. CINB may have advantages over epidurals such as fewer complications, fewer contraindications, and a shorter time to placement. Further studies are needed to confirm these statements.