Department : Facial Trauma
Facial trauma, also called maxillofacial trauma, is any physical trauma to the face. Facial trauma can involve soft tissue injuries such as burns, lacerations and bruises, or fractures of the facial bones such as nasal fractures and fractures of the jaw, as well as trauma such as eye injuries. Symptoms are specific to the type of injury; for example, fractures may involve pain, swelling, loss of function, or changes in the shape of facial structures.
Facial injuries have the potential to cause disfigurement and loss of function; for example, blindness or difficulty moving the jaw can result. Although it is seldom life-threatening, facial trauma can also be deadly, because it can cause severe bleeding or interference with the airway; thus a primary concern in treatment is ensuring that the airway is open and not threatened so that the patient can breathe. Depending on the type of facial injury, treatment may include bandaging and suturing of open wounds, administration of ice, antibiotics and pain killers, moving bones back into place, and surgery. When fractures are suspected, radiography is used for diagnosis. Treatment may also be necessary for other injuries such as traumatic brain injury, which commonly accompany severe facial trauma.
In developed countries, the leading cause of facial trauma used to be motor vehicle accidents, but this mechanism has been replaced by interpersonal violence; however auto accidents still predominate as the cause in developing countries and are still a major cause elsewhere. Thus prevention efforts include awareness campaigns to educate the public about safety measures such as seat belts and motorcycle helmets, and laws to prevent drunk and unsafe driving. Other causes of facial trauma include falls, industrial accidents, and sports injuries.
Injury mechanisms such as falls, assaults, sports injuries, and vehicle crashes are common causes of facial trauma in children as well as adults. Blunt assaults, blows from fists or objects, are a common cause of facial injury. Facial trauma can also result from wartime injuries such as gunshots and blasts. Animal attacks and work-related injuries such as industrial accidents are other causes. Vehicular trauma is one of the leading causes of facial injuries. Trauma commonly occurs when the face strikes a part of the vehicle’s interior, such as the steering wheel. In addition, airbags can cause corneal abrasions and lacerations (cuts) to the face when they deploy.
Signs and symptoms
Fractures of facial bones, like other fractures, may be associated with pain, bruising, and swelling of the surrounding tissues (such symptoms can occur in the absence of fractures as well). Fractures of the nose, base of the skull, or maxilla may be associated with profuse nosebleeds.Nasal fractures may be associated with deformity of the nose, as well as swelling and bruising.Deformity in the face, for example a sunken cheekbone or teeth which do not align properly, suggests the presence of fractures. Asymmetry can suggest facial fractures or damage to nerves. People with mandibular fractures often have pain and difficulty opening their mouths and may have numbness in the lip and chin. With Le Fort fractures, the midface may move relative to the rest of the face or skull.
Radiography, imaging of tissues using X-rays, is used to rule out facial fractures. Angiography (X-rays taken of the inside of blood vessels) can be used to locate the source of bleeding. However the complex bones and tissues of the face can make it difficult to interpret plain radiographs; CT scanning is better for detecting fractures and examining soft tissues, and is often needed to determine whether surgery is necessary, but it is more expensive and difficult to obtain. CT scanning is usually considered to be more definitive and better at detecting facial injuries than X-ray. CT scanning is especially likely to be used in people with multiple injuries who need CT scans to assess for other injuries anyway.
Measures to reduce facial trauma include laws enforcing seat belt use and public education to increase awareness about the importance of seat belts and motorcycle helmets. Efforts to reduce drunk driving are other preventative measures; changes to laws and their enforcement have been proposed, as well as changes to societal attitudes toward the activity. Information obtained from biomechanics studies can be used to design automobiles with a view toward preventing facial injuries. While seat belts reduce the number and severity of facial injuries that occur in crashes, airbags alone are not very effective at preventing the injuries. In sports, safety devices including helmets have been found to reduce the risk of severe facial injury. Additional attachments such as face guards may be added to sports helmets to prevent or facial injury (injury to the mouth or face), mouth guards also used.
An immediate need in treatment is to ensure that the airway is open and not threatened (for example by tissues or foreign objects), because airway compromisation can occur rapidly and insidiously, and is potentially deadly. Material in the mouth that threatens the airway can be removed manually or using a suction tool for that purpose, and supplemental oxygen can be provided. Facial fractures that threaten to interfere with the airway can be reduced by moving the bones back into place; this both reduces bleeding and moves the bone out of the way of the airway. Tracheal intubation (inserting a tube into the airway to assist breathing) may be difficult or impossible due to swelling. Nasal intubation, inserting an endotracheal tube through the nose, may be contraindicated in the presence of facial trauma because if there is an undiscovered fracture at the base of the skull, the tube could be forced through it and into the brain. If facial injuries prevent oraotracheal or nasotracheal intubation, a surgical airway can be placed to provide an adequate airway. Although cricothyrotomy and tracheostomy can secure an airway when other methods fail, they are used only as a last resort because of potential complications and the difficulty of the procedures.
A dressing can be placed over wounds to keep them clean and to facilitate healing, and antibiotics may be used in cases where infection is likely. People with contaminated wounds who have not been immunized against tetanus within five years may be given a tetanus vaccination. Lacerations may require stitches to stop bleeding and facilitate wound healing with as little scarring as possible. Although it is not common for bleeding from the maxillofacial region to be profuse enough to be life-threatening, it is still necessary to control such bleeding. Severe bleeding occurs as the result of facial trauma in 1–11% of patients, and the origin of this bleeding can be difficult to locate. Nasal packing can be used to control nose bleeds and hematomas that may form on the septum between the nostrils. Such hematomas need to be drained. Mild nasal fractures need nothing more than ice and pain killers, while breaks with severe deformities or associated lacerations may need further treatment, such as moving the bones back into alignment and antibiotic treatment.
Treatment aims to repair the face’s natural bony architecture and to leave as little apparent trace of the injury as possible. Fractures may be repaired with metal plates and screws. They may also be wired into place. Bone grafting is another option to repair the bone’s architecture, to fill out missing sections, and to provide structural support. Medical literature suggests that early repair of facial injuries, within hours or days, results in better outcomes for function and appearance.
Surgical specialists who commonly treat specific aspects of facial trauma are oral and maxillofacial surgeons. These surgeons are trained in the comprehensive management of trauma to the lower, middle and upper face and have to take written and oral board examinations covering the management of facial injuries.