Over 50% Reduction in Facial Fractures from Car Accidents With Combined Seat Belt and Air Bag use

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. David A. Hyman, MD
Division of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery
Department of Surgery
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Motor vehicle collisions represent a significant source of facial fractures seen at US trauma centers. In the last few decades there have been significant advances in airbag technology as well as a national legislative push regarding seat belt use which has led to increased safety device use. With these trends, we sought to assess the incidence of facial fractures in patients who present to US trauma centers as well as to analyze what effect restraint devices have on the likelihood of facial fractures after motor vehicle collisions. This analysis was performed using National Trauma Data Bank data from 2007-2012. We found the incidence of at least one facial fracture after a motor vehicle collision was 10.9% with nasal fracture being the most common facial fracture. Based on our analysis of more than 56 thousand patients with a facial fracture, we found that use of an airbag alone reduced the likelihood of a facial fracture by 18% while use of a seat belt alone reduced likelihood by 43%. Use of both reduced the likelihood of facial fractures in a crash by 53%. Younger age, male sex, and use of alcohol increased the likelihood of facial fracture.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Approximately 10.9% of patients who present to US trauma centers after motor vehicle collisions have at least one facial fracture. Those with facial fracture were significantly more likely to be younger, male, not wearing protective devices and under the influence of alcohol.

While use of seat belts alone and use of both seat belts and airbags have been recognized as protective against facial fractures, our study also shows airbags alone also provide a significant protective benefit. This may be due to advances in airbag technology. Despite these findings regarding the protective benefit of airbag alone, it is important to reiterate that the greatest reduction in likelihood of facial fracture was from the combination of seat belts and airbags.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: While the size of the National Trauma Data Base makes it an excellent source for assessing a large sample size reflective of patients who present to level I-IV US trauma centers, it does not provide great detail regarding crash variables or patients who do not present to US trauma centers after MVCs. Going forward we would like to further assess the effect of factors such as type of collision, side airbag deployment, and vehicle type on likelihood of facial fractures.

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