Maxillofacial trauma

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Prehospital Care

  • Assess patients ability to speak and protect the airway before and frequently during transport
  • Hematomas can significantly distort pharyngeal and facial anatomy making intubation or cricothyroidotomy difficult
  • Increased jaw mobility from a mid face fracture may help with intubation
  • Penetrating trauma to the lower third of the face frequently requires intubation or a surgical airway[1]
  • Place a protective shield over an eye suspected to have a ruptured globe
  • Patients should remain upright or reverse trendelenburg if there is oropharyngeal and nasal bleeding to avoid aspiration especially if placed in cervical protection
  • Temporizing hemostasis with oral and nasal packing in an intubated patient may help with persistent bleeding
  • Transport all avulsed pieces of the face including ears and nose

Pediatric Considerations

  • Cricothyrotomy is contraindicated in patients <8yr old
  • Maxillary sinuses do not develop until 6 yr old (reduces midfacial fracture)
  • Pediatric orbital floor is more pliable, more likely to lead to entrapment
  • Mandible fracture requires prompt referral (1-2d) due to rapid bone remodeling

Clinical Features



  • Crepitus over any facial sinus suggests sinus fracture
  • Septal Hematoma
  • Make sure simple nasal fracture isn't a complex naso-orbito-ethmoid injury


  • Intraoral palpation of zygomatic arch to distinguish bony from soft tissue injury
  • Mandible Fracture
    • Place finger in auditory canal while patient opens and closes jaw to detect condyle fracture
    • Tongue blade test
      • 95% Sn for no fracture if can bite down hard enough to break it when twisted by examiner
    • Jaw deviation due to mandible dislocation or condyle fracture
      • Chin will point away from dislocation, towards a fracture
  • Malocclusion occurs in mandible, zygomatic, and Le Fort fractures
  • Lacerations and mucosal ecchymosis suggests mandible fracture

Other Face

  • Numbness
    • Check supraorbital, infraorbital, and mental nerves
  • Assess Le Fort by rocking hard palate with one hand while stabilizing forehead with other


Visual Diagnosis

Differential Diagnosis

Maxillofacial Trauma



  • Suspect midface fracture > facial CT
  • Suspect orbital floor fracture > orbital CT
  • Suspect mandibular fracture > CT face


  • Frequently on CT

Example Images


  • Treat underlying process/diagnosis


See Also


  1. Hollier L. et al. Facial gunshot wounds: A 4-year experience. Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 2011: 59:277-282