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Facial Fracture

Facial Fracture Overview

A fracture is a broken bone. Facial fracture refers to any injury that results in a broken bone or bones of the face.

Facial Fracture Causes

Many situations can cause facial fractures. Motor vehicle crashes, sporting injuries, falls, and assault account for the majority, although injuries from gunshot wounds and stabbings occur as well.

Always be concerned about other injuries with facial fractures. In particular, other parts of the body may be injured, for example, if you have facial injuries in a motor vehicle accident.

Facial Fracture Symptoms

Although certain symptoms are specific for the bone fractured, some symptoms are common to any fractured bone. But remember that these symptoms may also indicate a soft tissue injury (without a broken bone).

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

Symptoms of a broken nose include:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Deformity
  • Nosebleed (if present, is usually minor)

Significant trauma to the bridge of the nose may result in a fracture of the bones inside your nose (ethmoid bones). These bones, if fractured, may cause the brain to connect with the outside environment. Possible symptoms include persistent nosebleed or a clear nasal discharge.

Symptoms of a broken jaw include:

  • Jaw pain
  • Tenderness
  • Inability to bring the teeth together properly (malocclusion)
  • Bruising under the tongue (almost always indicates a jaw fracture)

Symptoms of a midface (maxillary) fracture include:

  • Inability to bring the teeth together properly
  • Visual problems
  • Clear nasal discharge
  • Bruising around the eyes 
  • Midface may be able to be moved.

These fractures are not usually subtle and are often the result of high-speed car accidents. As a result, there might be severe injury to areas other than the face. Many people with this type of fracture will have difficulty breathing and require a tube to be placed down their throat to help them breathe.

Symptoms of a cheekbone (zygomatic) fracture include:

  • Flatness of the cheek
  • Altered sensation underneath the eye on the affected side
  • Visual complaints
  • Pain with jaw movement
  • Blood in the side of the eye on the affected side 

Symptoms of an eye socket (orbital) fracture include:

  • Sunken eye (enophthalmos)
  • Altered sensation beneath the affected eye
  • Double vision, particularly with upward gaze

This fracture involves the bones of the eye socket. Injury usually occurs when a blunt object such as a fist or a ball hits the eye.

Symptoms of a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dislocation include: 

  • Jaw deviation
  • Inability to close the mouth

Dislocation of the TMJ (the joint where your jaw meets with the temporal bone, right in front of your ear) can occur with blunt trauma, seizures, or excessive mouth opening.

When to Seek Medical Care

A doctor should check all people with facial trauma. In the event of massive trauma, call 911.

For any other significant facial injury, you can either go to a hospital emergency department or see your own doctor.

Any of the the following symptoms need to be evaluated by a doctor:

  • Clear nasal discharge
  • Nosebleed
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Any visual disturbance such as double or blurry vision
  • Any hearing problem
  • Inability to bring teeth together
  • Pain with jaw movement
  • Altered sensation on the face
  • Face uneven (asymmetrical)
  • Open wounds with visible bone

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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