Safety device use affects the incidence patterns of facial trauma in motor vehicle collisions: an analysis of the National Trauma Database from 2000 to 2004

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2008 Jun;121(6):2057-2064. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e31817071fb.


Background: Airbags and seat belts are designed to decrease injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions. The authors hypothesize that the use of these devices has an effect on the patterns of facial fractures and facial lacerations.

Methods: The records of 15,293 facial fracture patients and 114,623 facial laceration patients from motor vehicle collisions were analyzed from the National Trauma Database. Five hundred sixty-five patients were identified as having panfacial fractures. Fisher's exact test and chi-square analysis were used to study associations between safety devices and facial trauma.

Results: Panfacial fractures occurred in 3.7 percent of all patients sustaining facial fractures. In motor vehicle collisions resulting in facial fractures, 31.2 percent of patients had a seat belt, 5.6 percent had a seat belt and an airbag, 3.9 percent had an airbag only, and 59.3 percent had no safety device. The lack of a safety device in motor vehicle collisions increased the incidence of facial fractures (odds ratio, 2.26), panfacial fractures (odds ratio, 2.98), and facial lacerations (odds ratio, 1.95). Passengers with facial fractures were more likely to have not used a safety device (odds ratio, 1.69).

Conclusions: Based on the largest reported series on motor vehicle collision-associated facial fractures in the United States, the use of airbags and seat belts is associated with a significantly decreased incidence of facial fractures and lacerations. Given that fewer than half of these patients used a safety device and the high morbidity and costs associated with these injuries, plastic surgeons should advocate for the increased use of these safety devices.

MeSH terms

  • Accident Prevention / instrumentation*
  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Bags / statistics & numerical data*
  • Facial Bones / injuries*
  • Facial Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Facial Injuries / etiology
  • Facial Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Facial Injuries / surgery
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Maxillofacial Injuries / epidemiology
  • Maxillofacial Injuries / prevention & control
  • Maxillofacial Injuries / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Trauma
  • Probability
  • Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Seat Belts / statistics & numerical data*
  • Treatment Outcome