The nose projects prominently from the center of the face; thus, it is no surprise that it is the most commonly broken bone on the head. A broken nose (nasal fracture) can significantly alter one’s appearance. It can also make it much harder to breathe through the nose.
A broken nose will usually occur after a fall, car accident, sports injury, a fight, or any other activity that imparts significant blunt trauma to the nose. Typically, the nose will swell up and be very painful, and there may be associated bruising or black eyes. There may also be some obvious nasal deformity, such as crookedness, a new hump, or a flattening of the nose. Patients often have a nose bleed at the time of the injury which settles down over minutes to hours. The inside of the nose swells, making it difficult to breathe through the nose. Swelling develops both inside and outside the nose, and dark bruises may occur around the eyes (black eyes).
Nasal fractures can affect both bone and cartilage inside the nose. A collection of blood within the septum, which is the wall separating the right and left nostrils, is an emergency that needs to be drained. This is called a septal hematoma and it should be treated urgently. For this reason, patients should seek medical attention if they have sustained a nasal injury and have any of the above symptoms.
The treatment for a broken nose is called a closed reduction of nasal fracture. This must be done within 7-10 days of the injury. Otherwise, the broken bones become fused in their new abnormal position. It is important to see your Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist in a timely fashion. The procedure is done under general anesthesia. Your doctor will manipulate the nose with instruments to re-orient the bones and get them back to as close to how they looked before the injury. This operation does not require any incisions and takes about 15-20 minutes. Usually, a cast is placed on the nose and occasionally, packing is temporarily placed. A follow up visit is scheduled for one week later.