Nasal Bony Fractures – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

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Nasal Bony Fractures means a broken nose is a fracture (crack or break) of the nasal bones. In most cases, there is also some damage to nearby nasal cartilage, particularly the nasal septum, the flexible partition that divides the left and right sides of the nose.

Nasal bony fractures are the most common type of facial bone fractures representing 40% to 50% of cases.Nasal fractures are commonly associated with physical assaults, falls, sports injuries and road traffic accidents. The bony nasal trauma may be isolated injuries or may occur in combination with other soft tissue injuries, and other facial bony injuries.  The protrusion of the nasal bones and the central location on the face predisposes the nose to injury. Nasal fractures are found to be twice as common in males compared to females. Although nasal fractures tend to be the most common types of facial fractures, they may be associated with fractures of the zygomatic-orbital complex and fractures of the skull base; these should not be missed when assessing the patient.

Anatomy and Physiology

The nose is made up of a bony and cartilaginous framework. The bony nasal pyramid consists of paired nasal bones and the frontal process of the maxilla bilaterally. Cartilaginous structures include the upper and lower lateral cartilages and the septum. Both of these frameworks are susceptible to fracture.

Nosebleeds are common with nasal fractures. The blood supply to the nose originates from the ophthalmic artery, which is a branch of the internal carotid artery, branching to give the anterior and posterior ethmoidal arteries and the facial and internal maxillary arteries from the external carotid artery. Trauma to the nose may cause anterior septal bleeding from Kiesselbach’s plexus. The Kiesselbach plexus is on the anteroinferior nasal septum and is formed by the anastomosis of the following arteries:

  • The anterior ethmoidal artery which is a branch of the ophthalmic artery
  • The sphenopalatine artery which is a branch of the maxillary artery
  • The greater palatine artery, also a branch of the maxillary artery
  • The superior labial artery, a branch of the facial artery

This plexus of vessels is important as more than 90% of patients presenting with epistaxis, will be found to be bleeding from this area.

Trauma to the nasal bones can also cause transection of the anterior ethmoidal artery with resultant brisk, heavy intermittent bleeding. This may require the artery to be clipped.

With nasal fractures, associated fractures of the orbits, maxillary sinus, ethmoid sinus, and cribriform plates are all possible.

Classification of Nasal Bony Fractures

Nasal fractures can be classified on a scale depicting the severity of the injury. An isolated nasal fracture is usually caused by low-velocity trauma. If the nose is fractured by high-velocity trauma then facial fractures are often an accompaniment.


  • Type I: Injury restricted to soft tissue
  • Type IIa: Simple, unilateral nondisplaced fracture
  • Type IIb: Simple, bilateral nondisplaced fracture
  • Type III: Simple, displaced fracture
  • Type IV: Closed comminuted fracture
  • Type V: Open comminuted fracture or complicated fracture

Cause of Nasal Bony Fractures

  • Nasal fractures are caused by physical trauma to the face. Common sources of nasal fractures include sports injuries, fighting, falls, and car accidents in the younger age groups, and falls from syncope or impaired balance in the elderly.[rx]

Symptoms of Nasal Bony Fractures

Symptoms of a broken nose include bruising, swelling, tenderness, pain, deformity, and/or bleeding of the nose and nasal region of the face.

  • Pain or tenderness, especially when touching your nose
  • Swelling of your nose and surrounding areas
  • Bleeding from your nose
  • Bruising around your nose or eyes
  • Bruising, swelling and tenderness around the nose
  • A deformed, twisted or crooked nose
  • Blockage of one or both nostrils
  • A deviated septum
  • A bruise-like discoloration under the eyes
  • Crooked or misshapen nose
  • Difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Discharge of mucus from your nose
  • Feeling that one or both of your nasal passages are blocked
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The patient may have difficulty breathing, or excessive nosebleeds (if the nasal mucosa are damaged). The patient may also have bruising around one or both eyes.

Diagnosis of Nasal Bony Fractures


The history of the injury should document the mechanism of the injury, the direction of the forces and documentation of any prior nasal fractures and surgeries.

In the acute phase, the simple application of ice and analgesia may be suitable. More severe facial trauma will require assessment and stabilization of the airway, using appropriate Advance Trauma Life Support (ATLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) protocols.

Physical Examination

A general examination is always performed to rule out severe, life-threatening conditions.

Inspection of the Nose and Face

  • Deformity and swelling
  • Ecchymosis
  • Epistaxis
  • The shape of the nose: loss of anterior projection of nose with increased intercanthal distance suggests naso-orbital-ethmoid fracture
  • Eye movements: blowout fracture may cause extra-ocular muscle entrapment


  • Tenderness: Widening of the tip of the nose and nasal obstruction may represent a septal hematoma
  • Deformity
  • Crepitus
  • Orbital rim step-off
  • Infraorbital paresthesia

Examination of Nares

  • Elevate the tip of the nose to get a good view
  • Use a headlight/thudicums nasal speculum or an otoscope/speculum
  • Swelling to the septum which is boggy to touch with a cotton bud, and which has a blue/purple appearance is a septal hematoma and will require emergency drainage
  • The presence of clear nasal fluid may indicate a CSF leak from an associated basal skull fracture
  • Mid-face instability or dental malocclusion is indicative of a midfacial Le Fort fracture

Clinical features and assessment of facial fractures associated with traumatic nasal injuries 1 [rx],
Fracture typeAssessment essentialsKey assessment findingsKey points/management
Mandibular fracture
  • Palpate mandible
  • Inspect mandible dentition
  • Assess mouth occlusion
  • Trismus
  • Malocclusion
  • Chin numbness (mental nerve injury)
  • Second most frequent fractured facial bone
  • Angle and body most common fracture site
  • Refer for CT facial bones and maxillofacial services (within 24 hours)
Zygomaticomaxillary complex fracture
  • Palpate zygoma and maxilla
  • Intraoral and intranasal examination
  • Visual acuity and range of eye movement
  • Mid-face sensation
  • Mid-face numbness
  • Malar depression
  • Enopthalmus
  • Trismus
  • Malocclusion
  • Fractures may involve lateral orbital wall, zygomatic arch, anterior or lateral maxillary sinus wall, or orbital floor
  • Refer for CT facial bones and maxillofacial services (within 24 hours)
  • Ophthalmology review for visual symptoms or orbital injury
Frontal fracture
  • Palpate frontal bar
  • Assess forehead sensation
  • Visual acuity
  • Assess for CSF leak
  • Forehead lacerations
  • Forehead numbness
  • Epistaxis
  • Rhinorrhoea
  • Prone to injury due to anatomic position
  • CT facial bones and sinuses
  • Be wary of intracranial complications
  • Delayed complications include CSF leak and frontal sinusitis
Orbital fracture
  • Palpate orbital rims
  • Examine eyelids and globe position
  • Visual acuity and range of eye movement
  • Forehead sensation
  • Visual changes
  • Forehead/mid-face numbness
  • Enophthalmos
  • Chemosis

Sub-conjunctival haemorrhage

  • Essential to document visual acuity and range of eye movements
  • CT facial bones and sinuses
  • Ophthalmology review for visual symptoms or orbital injury (within 24 hours)
Nasoethmoid orbital fracture
  • Palpate nasal bones
  • Visual acuity
  • Examine eyelids and globe position
  • Palpate and exert pressure on medial orbital rim
  • Posterior displacement of nasal pyramid
  • Telecanthus
  • Enophthalmos
  • Epiphora
  • Prone to injury in high-velocity mid-facial trauma
  • Nasoethmoid orbital fractures can be minimally displaced
  • Mobility or crepitus on palpation is abnormal
  • Refer for CT facial bones and maxillofacial services (within 24 hours)
CSF, cerebrospinal fluid; CT, computed tomography


Imaging for isolated nasal fractures is rarely needed. CT scans are performed for suspected head injuries, basal skull fractures or complex facial injuries.

  • sensitivity ~80% 6
  • best detected on the lateral view
  • Waters view is useful in assessing the nasal arch
  • sensitivity is 100%

Treatment of

Soft Tissue Injury

Nasal wounds are cleaned and foreign bodies removed. Small lacerations can be closed with porous surgical tape strips or with fine sutures.

Nasal Fractures

Reduction of nasal fractures is not always required. If there is no fracture, or no deformity or the patient is happy to live with a minor deformity then nothing further needs to be done. If swelling interferes with an adequate examination, the patient should be reassessed after 5 to 7 days. Manipulation should never be delayed more than 2 weeks following injury as the nasal bones heal and fixate: manipulation at this stage will be difficult or impossible. After this time only a formal septorhinoplasty would be possible.

Septal Hematoma

This is caused by a collection of blood underneath the mucoperichondrial layer of the nasal septum. it normally presents with pain and nasal obstruction with a boggy swelling to the septum. If not managed this can lead to a septal abscess, cartilage necrosis and even a nasal saddle deformity can ensue. Aspiration with a syringe and needle may suffice. Some cases may require formal drainage in the operating theatre with an insertion of a small drain or the use of quilting sutures (to obliterate the dead space) to prevent recollection.

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Leaks

Clear rhinorrhoea following nasal trauma should raise the suspicion of a CSF leak. The cribriform plate is thin bone and a likely area to fracture. Confirmation of diagnosis is obtained by sending a sample of the clear fluid for beta-2 transferrin assays. A high-resolution CT may help delineate the fracture.


  • Severely comminuted fracture of the nasal bones and septum
  • Open septal fractures
  • Fractures examined 3 to 4 weeks or longer after the initial injury

Equipment of Nasal Bony Fractures

  • Topical decongestant: Oxymetazoline, lignocaine with phenylephrine spray
  • Local anesthetic infiltration
  • Headlight
  • Thulium’s speculum
  • Nasal speculum
  • Boies elevator
  • Walsham forceps
  • External splint

What Are Some Things I Should I Do Right Away?

You’ll need to stop any bleeding and try to reduce pain and swelling. Do these things until you can get to a doctor:

Stop the Bleeding

  • Sit up — don’t lie down or lean back. Your nose needs to stay higher than your heart.
  • Lean forward so that the blood won’t run into the back of your throat.
  • Pinch the soft part of your nose with your thumb and index finger, and hold it tightly for 5 minutes.
  • If the bleeding hasn’t stopped, pinch your nose again for 10 more minutes.

Ease the Pain

  • Take over-the-counter pain medicine as directed on the package (like acetaminophen or ibuprofen) as needed.
  • Sleep with your head propped on extra pillows.

Reduce the Swelling

  • Wrap an ice pack in a towel. Place it on your nose for 10 minutes, then remove for 10 minutes. Repeat.
  • Don’t put pressure on the ice pack — you may hurt your nose.
  • Put an ice pack or cold compress on your nose at least four times per day for the first 2 days after you get hurt.\

Technique of Nasal Bony Fractures

Consideration of Anesthesia

Many studies have been carried out looking at general anesthetic vs. local anesthesia for the reduction of nasal fractures. The main concerns regarding cooperativeness should be assessed preoperatively. Pediatric patients pose additional challenges and should be done under general anesthetic. Most adults with type IIa to type IV fractures can be successfully reduced with a combination of topical and infiltrative local anesthesia.

Local Anaesthetic Reduction

Nasal fracture reduction with a combination of topical and local anesthetics, in an outpatient/office setting, is, in the majority of cases well-tolerated with regards to pain. Results are comparable to having it done under general anesthetic. Topical agents can be applied with pledgets. The local anesthesia injection is infiltrated along the lateral aspects of the nasal bones, the premaxilla, and intranasally along the septum. Key injections to the infraorbital nerve, infratrochlear and V1 branch of trigeminal nerve can provide additional field blocks.

General Anaesthetic Reduction 

The patient needs to be seen within 5 to 7 days of the injury to allow enough time for nasal swelling to settle.

Closed Reduction

This is the most straightforward approach, with success rates of 60% to 90%. it is usually reserved for simple noncomminuted fractures. The fundamental principle is to apply a force opposite to the vector of trauma to achieve fracture reduction. Depressed segments of nasal bone can be reduced using an elevator. Alternatively, Walsham’s forceps can be inserted into the nasal cavity and rotated laterally to out fracture the bones. A force in the opposing direction can digitally manipulate laterally displaced segments of the bony pyramid. Remember that sometimes with fractures the fracture line has to be widened first and then closed especially if bones are overriding each other. Attention should be paid to the nasal septum here, and where possible, the septal base should be repositioned into the vomerine groove. Patients should be prepared for the possibility that a future septorhinoplasty may be required with reoperation rates of 9% to 17%.

All nasal bone reductions should wear a dorsal splint for 7 days. Not only does it help hold bones in place but reminds the patient and others around them to be careful as the bones can quite easily displace again. Most closed reductions do not require internal splints, but they have been used in comminuted fractures, septal dislocation, and with inwardly collapsing nasal bones.

Open Reduction

Fractures that cannot be reduced by closed techniques are candidates for formal open reduction via an open septorhinoplasty. Sometimes the injuries between bones and cartilages may be complex and fixing one without the other will leave the patient with ongoing nasal breathing issues. The greater exposure and direct visualization is a major benefit over closed reduction. One may need to wait 4 to 6 months after the initial injury to allow tissues to settle before formal open septorhinoplasty can be considered.


Your doctor probably will choose this option if your nasal fracture is severe or has gone untreated for more than 2 weeks. The goal is to put your bones back in their proper place and reshape your nose, if necessary.

You’ll get pain medication for the procedure. You might also have to have nasal surgery to fix any breathing problems. In many cases, you can go home the day of surgery. But you may have to stay home for about a week due to swelling and bruising.


  • Septal hematoma
  • Septal abscess
  • Avascular necrosis of nasal septal cartilage leading to saddle deformity
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Blowout fractures: Extraocular muscle entrapment and diplopia
  • Nasolacrimal duct injury: Due to the close relationship of the duct to the nasal bones
  • Fracture of cribriform plate and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) rhinorrhoea
  • Inability to reduce: Fractures that cannot be reduced by closed techniques are candidates for open reduction.
  • Airway compromise and hemorrhage.
  • Nasofrontal duct and or lacrimal duct disruption as a result of direct damage or due to displaced fracture segments.
  • Facial deformity, as full correction of telecanthus or nasal depression can be difficult to achieve, and some patients will retain a degree of asymmetry. Depending on the surgical approach, patients may experience temporary or permanent paralysis and or anesthesia of the forehead. Scars that cannot be hidden in the hairy scalp or skin folds may be prominent.
  • Infection of the incision site, soft tissues, and meninges are recognized complications from these injuries.
  • Mucocele formation is a complication of sinus or lacrimal drainage disruption and can become infected.
  • Mental health, as patients with facial injuries are at greater risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety-related disorders. Particularly those who were victims of assault.


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