Mandibular fractures in British military personnel secondary to blast trauma sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan

Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2011 Dec;49(8):607-11. doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2010.10.006. Epub 2010 Nov 11.


Blast trauma is the primary cause of maxillofacial injury sustained by British service personnel on deployment, and the mandible is the maxillofacial structure most likely to be injured in combat, but there are few reports about the effect of blast trauma on it. The Joint Theatre Trauma Registry identified all mandibular fractures sustained by British servicemen secondary to blast injury between 1 January 2004 and 30 September 2009. These were matched to corresponding hospital notes from the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) for those evacuated servicemen and autopsy records for those who died of wounds. Seventy-four mandibular fractures were identified in 60 servicemen. Twenty-two soldiers were evacuated to the RCDM and the remaining 38 died from wounds. Fractures of the symphysis (39/106, 37%) and body (31/106, 29%) were more common than those of the angle (26/106, 25%) and condyle (10/106, 9%). This pattern of injury differs from that of civilian blunt trauma where the condyle is the site that is injured most often. Those fractures thought to result from the blast wave itself usually caused simple localised fractures, whereas those fractures thought to result from fragments of the blast caused comminution that affected several areas of the mandible. The pattern of fractures in personnel injured while they were inside a vehicle resembled that traditionally seen in blunt trauma, which supports the requirement for mandatory wearing of seat-belts in the rear of vehicles whenever tactically viable. All mandibular fractures in servicemen injured while in the turret of a vehicle had evidence of foreign bodies or radio-opaque fragments as a result of their exposed position. Many of these injuries could therefore be potentially prevented by the adoption of facial protection.

MeSH terms

  • Afghan Campaign 2001-*
  • Afghanistan
  • Blast Injuries / complications*
  • Fractures, Comminuted / etiology*
  • Fractures, Comminuted / pathology
  • Humans
  • Iraq
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011*
  • Male
  • Mandibular Fractures / etiology*
  • Mandibular Fractures / pathology*
  • Military Personnel*
  • Mouth Protectors
  • Seat Belts
  • United Kingdom