A facial fracture is basically a broken bone in the face. It is important to note that the face has a highly complex bone structure. The skeleton is comprised of the frontal bone, orbital bones, cheek bones, nasal bones, mandible and maxillary bones. There are also other bones that are deeply positioned within the facial structure along with attached muscles vital for chewing, talking and swallowing.
The most common facial fractures involve the nose. Other fractures can also occur in other bones in which only one broken bone is present or several bones. Several fractures are likely to occur during vehicular accidents or other forms of high-impact injuries. In addition, the fractures might be unilateral or bilateral.
Is a facial fracture a serious injury?
There are some types of facial fractures that are minor but others are capable of causing irreversible damage and can be life-threatening. With this in mind, it is vital to seek treatment before any serious complications arises.
Always bear in mind that the face is close to the central nervous system and the brain. A facial fracture can result to damage to the cranial nerves depending on the type and location of the fracture. The fractures on the orbit can cause issues with the vision.
Types of facial fractures
- Nasal bones – A facial fracture involving the nasal bones are the most common type. Remember that minimal force is required to break the nasal bones since they are thin and prominent. In most cases, the nose appears deformed or feels sore to the touch. Bruising and nosebleed are the usual symptoms.
- Frontal bones – Any form of high-impact injury to the head can damage the frontal bone and floor of the sinuses. A fracture is likely to occur in the center of the forehead where the bone is thinnest and weakest.
- Zygomaticomaxillary fractures (upper jaw/cheekbone)
- Orbital fractures (eye socket)
- Mid-face or Le Fort fractures
- Mandible fractures
- High-impact accidents such as vehicular collisions
- Domestic violence or assault
- Sports injuries
- Workplace accidents
Diagnosing a facial fracture
Initially, the doctor will assess for any life-threatening injuries. These injuries should be dealt with right away before a thorough examination of the face is carried out. The doctor will check for any blockage in the airways or nasal passages, pupil size and reactions as well as any damage to the central nervous system.
Once a fracture is suspected, the doctor might require a CT scan to determine the exact location and type of facial fracture. A series of X-rays are enough in some cases to assess the fracture if a CT scan could not be performed or no indication of a maxillary or mid-face fracture.
A facial fracture is managed with pain medications as well as oral steroids to reduce the swelling. In some cases, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics if there is a risk for infection.
Generally, fractures are treated with closed reduction or open reduction procedure. As for complex fractures that involve several broken bones, reconstructive surgery is required.