TRAUMATOLOGY


Maxillofacial trauma includes injuries to any of the bony or fleshy structures of the face. Any part of the face may be affected. Teeth may be knocked out or loosened. The eyes and their muscles, nerves, and blood vessels may be injured as well as the eye socket (orbit), which can be fractured by a forceful blow. The lower jaw (mandible) may be dislocated by force. Although anchored by strong muscles for chewing, the jaw is unstable in comparison with other bones and is easily dislocated from the temporomandibular joints that attach it to the skull. A fractured nose or jaw may affect the ability to breathe or eat. Any maxillofacial trauma may also prevent the passage of air or be severe enough to cause a concussion or more serious brain injury.

Athletes are particularly at risk of maxillofacial injuries. Boxers suffer repeated blows to the face and occasional knockouts (traumatic brain injury). Football, basketball, hockey, and soccer players, and many other athletes are at risk for milder forms of brain injury called concussions. Treatment varies, depending on the type and extent of the injury.

Dislocation of the jaw can be treated by a primary care physician by exerting pressure in the proper manner. If muscle spasm prevents the jaw from moving back into alignment, a sedative is administered intravenously (IV) to relax the muscles. Afterward, the patient must avoid opening the jaw wide as he will be prone to repeat dislocations.

A jaw fracture may be minor enough to heal with simple limitation of movement and time. More serious fractures require complicated, multi-step treatment. The jaw must be surgically immobilized by a qualified oral or maxillofacial surgeon or an otolaryngologist. The jaw is properly aligned and secured with metal pins and wires. Proper alignment is necessary to ensure that the bite is correct. If the bite is off, the patient may develop a painful disorder called temporomandibular joint syndrome. Another common maxillofacial fracture is a broken nose. The bones that form the bridge of the nose may be fractured, but cartilage may also be damaged, particularly the nasal septum which divides the nose. If hit from the side, the bones and cartilage are displaced to the side, but if hit from the front, they are splayed out. Severe swelling can inhibit diagnosis and treatment. Mild trauma to the nose can sometimes heal without the person being aware of the fracture unless there is obvious deformity. The nose will be tender for at least three weeks.

TRAUMATOLOGY