Facial fractures

Facial fractures are commonly caused by blunt or penetrating trauma at moderate or high levels of force. Such injuries may be sustained during a fall, physical assault, motor vehicle collision, or gunshot wound. The facial bones are thin and relatively fragile making them susceptible to injury.

Males are affected more commonly than females, and facial fractures are most common in the third decade 4

The extent and pattern of soft tissue and osseous facial injuries varies according energy of impact. Isolated fracture is most common with lower energy trauma, whereas high energy blunt and penetrating trauma results in more complex, less predictable injury pattern.

The most commonly fracture facial bones (in isolation) are the nasal bones, followed by the mandible and the bony orbit. Fractures involving more than one bone most commonly affect the orbital floor and zygomaticomaxilla 4.

Facial fractures have been categorized according to multiple schemas, most famously according to a simplified three-tier Le Fort classification for complex midface fractures. The concept of 'facial buttresses' has also been used to elucidate structurally-meaningful skeletal struts which play important in facial integrity. 

More recently, advances in surgical technique enable surgeons to consider reduction, stabilization, and reconstruction of complex midfacial fractures according to five midface subunits 5:

Beyond the midface, other clinically-significant fractures include:

Plain radiograph has poor sensitivity for detection of facial fractures. It should not play a role in the diagnosis of head trauma, except in limited circumstances such as detection of a radiodense foreign body 6,7.

CT is the standard of care for evaluation of suspected facial fracture because it is readily available, rapidly acquired, and highly accurate in detecting even subtle fractures. Importantly, it is also used to simultaneously evaluate for acute intracranial pathology which may be more urgent 6,7.  To a lesser extent, CT also provides an evaluation of the facial soft tissues, although has poor sensitivity for cartilaginous injuries 5.

Although 3D volumetric reconstructions are valuable for surgical planning and assessing global morphology and facial symmetry, they are susceptible to volume-averaging and thin structures (e.g. medial wall and floor of orbit) must be assessed using fine-resolution axial and coronal reconstructions 5.

Although it is the radiologist's role to detect and accurately diagnose facial fractures on imaging, it is equally important to communicate the findings in a meaningful and useful way within the radiology report. A high-quality report should reflect an understanding of the clinically important features which may impact management.

In the setting of complex injury, a reporting listing each fracture and a Le Fort fracture categorization may be less helpful.  Instead, consider highlighting even minor injuries to nasoseptal structures (appearance may belie cartilaginous injury and frequent occurrence of late deformity), and reporting fractures according to surgically-relevant midface subunits 5.

 

Fractures
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Article information

rID: 31189
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Fracture of the face
  • Facial fractures types
  • Types of facial fractures
  • Facial bone fractures

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1: naso-orbitoethmoid (NOE) complex fracture
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    Case 2: zygomaticomaxillary complex fracture
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    Case 3: with maxillary air-fluid level on the left
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    Case 4: nasal bone fractures
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    Case 5: complex
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    Case 6: mandibular fractures
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    Case 7: multiple
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