Nose fracture

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Definition

A nose fracture is a break in the bone or cartilage over the bridge, or in the sidewall or septum (structure that divides the nostrils) of the nose.

Alternative Names

Fracture of the nose; Broken nose; Nasal fracture

Considerations

A fractured nose is the most common fracture of the face. It usually occurs after an injury and often occurs with other fractures of the face.

Sometimes a blunt injury can cause the wall dividing the nostrils (septum) to separate.

Nose injuries and neck injuries are often seen together because a blow that is forceful enough to injure the nose may be hard enough to injure the neck.

Serious nose injuries cause problems that need a health care provider's attention right away. For example, damage to the cartilage can cause a collection of blood to form inside the nose. If this blood is not drained right away, it can cause an abscess or a permanent deformity that blocks the nose. It may lead to tissue death and cause the nose to collapse.

For minor nose injuries, the health care provider may want to see the patient within the first week after the injury to see if the nose has moved out of its normal shape.

Occasionally, surgery may be needed to correct a nose or septum that has been bent out of shape by an injury.

Causes

Symptoms

  • Blood coming from the nose
  • Bruising around the eyes
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Misshapen appearance (may not be obvious until the swelling goes down)
  • Pain
  • Swelling

The bruised appearance usually disappears after 2 weeks.

First Aid

  1. Try to stay calm.
  2. Breathe through your mouth and lean forward in a sitting position to keep blood from going down the back of your throat.
  3. Apply cold compresses to your nose to reduce swelling. If possible, hold the compress so that there isn't too much pressure on the nose.
  4. To help relieve pain, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is recommended.

Do Not

  • Do NOT try to straighten a broken nose.
  • Do NOT move the person if there is reason to suspect a head or neck injury.

Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if

Get medical help right away if:

  • Bleeding will not stop
  • Clear fluid keeps draining from the nose
  • You suspect a blood clot in the septum
  • You suspect a neck or head injury
  • The nose looks deformed or out of its usual shape
  • The person is having difficulty breathing

Prevention

Wear protective headgear while playing contact sports, riding bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, or rollerblades.

Use seat belts and appropriate car seats when driving.

References

Chegar BE, Tatum SA III. Nasal fractures. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund LJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 35.

Riviello RJ. Otolaryngologic procedures. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 64.

McKay MP, Mayersak RJ. Facial trauma. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 39.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 8/31/2011
  • Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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This page was last updated: May 20, 2014

         
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