A retrospective review of the relationship between facial fractures, head injuries, and cervical spine injuries

J Emerg Med. Mar-Apr 1988;6(2):109-12. doi: 10.1016/0736-4679(88)90148-5.


Facial fractures are common in the multiply-traumatized patient, and the results of previous studies that have examined the relationship between facial fractures, cervical spine injuries, and head injuries have produced conflicting results. A retrospective review of 1,050 blunt-trauma patients during a 40-month period at a regional trauma unit revealed 168 patients with facial fractures. The average injury severity score (ISS) of these patients with facial fractures was 31 compared with an average ISS of 25.6 for the entire group. There were 266 facial fractures in these 168 patients: mandible (n = 72), maxilla (n = 74), zygoma (n = 52), orbital (n = 46), nasoethmoidal (n = 20), and frontal (n = 2). There were seven (4%) cervical spine injuries, three of which were atlanto-occipital subluxations in patients who ultimately died. Of the four surviving patients, one had a cord injury. In contrast, 145 (85%) showed evidence of head injuries; 64 (38%) of these head injuries were serious and 17 of these patients required craniotomy. The relationship of facial fractures and cervical spine injuries may be over emphasized; head injuries, although frequently minor, are much more commonly associated with facial fractures.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications*
  • Facial Bones / injuries*
  • Fractures, Bone / complications*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Trauma / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications