Airbags, Seat Belts Help Prevent Facial Fractures

Nearly 11% percent of patients examined at trauma centers following motor vehicle collisions had at least one facial fracture, and airbags and seat belts were associated with reduced likelihood of those fractures, according to the results of a study recently published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.

David A. Hyman, MD, an otolaryngologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, and his coauthors used data from the National Trauma Data Bank to assess facial fractures in motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) reported by trauma centers from 2007 through 2012. The data included 518,106 individuals who were involved in an MVC and required assessment at a trauma center. The researchers found that, of those patients, 56,422 (10.9%) sustained facial fractures.

Of the patients who presented at trauma centers with facial fractures, 5.8% had airbag protection alone, 26.9% used only a seat belt, and 9.3% used both airbags and seat belts, while 57.6% used no protective device.

The investigators estimated that the use of an airbag alone reduced the likelihood of sustaining any facial fracture by 18% when compared with using no protective device. A seat belt cut the likelihood by 43%, and the combination of seat belts and airbags decreased the likelihood by 53%.