What is a nasal fracture?

Traffic accidents, falls, ‘sports’ or fighting hits can lead to a nasal fracture. Learn what to do and the warning signs that indicate the need for immediate medical attention.

The nose is made up of bone and, above all, cartilage. If we imagine it as if it were a pyramid, where the base is the nostrils, and the vertex is the upper part, it is observed that the upper portion is the bone, which is called the nasal bridge. As we descend, we notice how the bone gives way to the cartilage that separates both nostrils, the septum, which joins the lateral walls and then at the base with the nasal wings. A nasal fracture is the breakage of any of these parts, be it bone or cartilage.

According to statistics, the most common cause of nose fractures in adults is traffic accidents, while in children and the elderly, it is accidental falls. Other frequent causes are also trauma in contact sports or during fights and assaults.

Classification of nasal fractures

Classifying these types of fractures is complex due to several factors. First, the force and trajectory of the blow are important in determining the severity of the fracture. It should also be considered that it is rare for nasal lesions to appear isolated since the blows usually affect more parts of the face, such as the cheekbone’s eyes or bones.

To classify nasal bone fracture easier, we can divide them into two large groups: simple and complex.

Simple Nasal bone fractures: are those that only affect one structure without damaging the other, that is, either only the bone is injured or only cartilage. Within this group, we find:

  • Unilateral: when only one side is injured. 
  • Bilateral: both sides are affected.

Complex nasal fractures: in these, both the bone and the cartilage fracture. Again, we observe several groups within this category:

  • Comminuted: it means that the bone has been broken into small fragments, increasing the severity of the injury.
  • With septal hematoma, the blood has accumulated in the septum or nasal septum, causing swelling and pressure.
  • With lacerations: the fracture occurs together with lacerating wounds of varying severity. Sometimes the bone can even be seen through the open wound.

Broken nose symptoms

To determine if the injury is indeed the consequence of a fracture, we must be attentive to the typical clinical signs and symptoms of a nasal fracture that the injured person presents:

  • Pain: the nose hurts, and the sensation increases when touched.
  • Bleeding:  It can vary, from a few drops to a continuous stream.
  • Edema and hematoma: when fluids and blood accumulate in the injured area, it becomes inflamed. 
  • Deformation: if the fracture is in the septum, the nose may look deformed, deviated to one side, or wider than normal. Sometimes when trying to move the nose, a cracking sound can be heard.

These are the main signs that the nose is broken, even if the diagnosis is not confirmed until an X-ray examination is carried out at a medical center.

Depending on the severity of the nasal fracture, it may be necessary to perform a computerized tomography to observe the eyes and the brain, as they could have been affected.

Warning symptoms in a nasal fracture

With a nose fracture, immediate medical attention will be needed if the following warning signs or signals are detected :

  • A clear liquid comes out of the nose. This is a sign that the brain has been damaged.
  • There is a loss of vision of any kind.
  • The person has too much trouble breathing.
  • There is an inflammation inside the nose, similar to a grape, due to blood accumulation within the septum. This is called a septal hematoma, and it needs to be drained.

Ultimately, the most important complications in an accident of this type are excessive blood loss and septal hematoma. If the person is stable, they should go to a medical center to confirm the fracture. Remember that an early action exponentially increases the possibility of success and the capacity for recovery.

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