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Motor Vehicle Crashes and Violence Leading Causes of Facial Fractures in Children
Cause of fractures varies by age and socioeconomic status

Arlington Heights, Ill. - Facial fractures in children occur in different patterns in different age groups, but most often occur with other types of severe injuries, reports a study in the December issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

The study lends new insights into trends in the demographics, diagnosis and treatment of pediatric facial fractures-including higher rates of fractures caused by violence among adolescents, low-income and minority youth. The study was led by ASPS Member Surgeon Joseph E. Losee, MD, of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

In-Depth Analysis of 722 Pediatric Facial Fractures

The researchers analyzed facial fractures in infants, children and adolescents over a five-year period. They focused on differences in patient characteristics, fracture patterns and treatment in three age groups: 5 years and under, 6 to 11 years, and 12 to 18 years. The study excluded children who had skull fracture only, without fracture of the facial bones.

The average age was 10.7 years, and 69 percent of the patients were boys. Orbital fractures-fractures in and around the eye socket-were the most common type in all age groups. Rates of jaw, nasal and other types of fractures increased with age. Infants and young children were more likely to need treatment in the intensive care unit, while older children were more likely to need surgery.

Motor vehicle crashes were the most common cause, responsible for 21 percent of facial fractures. However, causes varied by age group:

  • Infants and children up to age 5 accounted for 20 percent of facial fractures. They were most likely to be injured in falls- none were injured in violence.
  • Children ages 6 to 11 accounted for 33 percent of facial fractures. Motor vehicle crashes were the most common cause, followed by play and bicycle riding.
  • Adolescents ages 12 to 18 were the largest group with facial fractures at 47 percent. Violence was the most common cause of facial fractures in teens, followed by sports-related injuries.

Across age groups, 56 percent of children had other types of traumatic injuries, including a 22 percent rate of concussions. Overall, 63 percent of children were hospitalized and 1.4 percent died.

About 12 percent of facial fractures resulted from violence. Violent injuries were more likely for minority children and those living in low-income neighborhoods.

Facial fractures are less common in children than adults; less than 15 percent of facial fractures occur in children. Because the skull and facial bones of children are "anatomically distinct" from those of adults, they are subject to unique injury patterns. Because of these distinct patterns, along with concern for future growth, surgeons must approach facial fractures in children as "fundamentally different" from those in adults.

The study is one of the first to look at the full range of facial fractures in children, from infancy through adolescence. Anatomy explains the higher rate of middle-third facial fractures in older children. Because of the relatively large size of the cranial bones in infants and young children, they are more likely to sustain isolated skull fractures rather than facial fractures.

The results call attention to the high rate of facial fractures caused by violence in boys, especially minorities and those in low-income areas. Dr. Losee and colleagues hope their findings will help plastic and reconstructive surgeons develop new and more effective approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of these unique injuries.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

About Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

For over 75 years, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® has been the one consistently excellent reference for every specialist who uses plastic surgery techniques or works in conjunction with a plastic surgeon. The official journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® brings subscribers up-to-the-minute reports on the latest techniques and follow-up for all areas of plastic and reconstructive surgery, including breast reconstruction, experimental studies, maxillofacial reconstruction, hand and microsurgery, burn repair and cosmetic surgery, as well as news on medico-legal issues.

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. Representing more than 7,000 physician members, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 93 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

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