What is facial trauma?

Facial trauma is bone or soft tissue damage to the face caused by motor vehicle accidents, assaults (including gunshots), sports injuries, falls, chemical exposures, thermal burns or animal bites. Because the human face is an intricate area containing many bones, blood vessels, nerves, muscles and sensory organs, if untreated, facial trauma may cause a permanent loss of function (seeing, chewing, speaking, swallowing) and disfigurement if not treated. Working together, emergency doctors, plastic and reconstructive surgeons, and other practitioners can lessen this risk of permanent complications.

Traumatic Injuries to the Face

Depending on the type of injury, facial trauma can cause severe bleeding and swelling, a bruised face, and distorted appearance of the facial features.


Facial Fractures

Facial fractures can affect any part of the face and impair function or distort the appearance. Severe fractures of the facial bones can cause leakage of cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain.

  • A broken jaw can affect the person’s ability to eat, chew, speak and swallow.
  • Teeth can be cracked or broken calling for restorative dental work.
  • Broken bones in the midface (maxillary fracture ― upper) can include:
    • LeFort I fracture, which occurs in a horizontal (transverse) line above the teeth and beneath the nose (the alveolar ridge).
    • LeFort II fracture, which can affect one or both sides of the face. The crack in the facial bones extends from the lower edge of the eye socket across the bridge of the nose and downward through the cheekbone (zygomatic arch) into the upper jaw (maxilla) behind the back upper teeth.
    • A LeFort III fracture forms a horizontal line across the back of the eye sockets and may be the result of a forceful, downward blow to the head.
  • A broken eye socket (orbital bone fracture) may include:
    • orbital rim fracture, which occurs in the thick outer edges of the eye socket bone
    • orbital floor fracture, sometimes called a blowout fracture. A direct impact to the face (for instance, being hit in the face with a baseball) can leave the outer rim of the eye socket intact, but can break the bone in the bottom of the eye socket, creating a hole. Orbital floor fractures can cause a black eye, eye pain and vision problems due to entrapped nerves and muscles that enable movement of the eye.