To develop an understanding of the expected functional outcomes after facial trauma, a retrospective cohort study of patients with complex facial fractures was conducted. A cohort of adults aged 18 to 55 years who were admitted to the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center between July of 1986 and July of 1994 for treatment of a Le Fort midface fracture (resulting from blunt force) was retrospectively identified. Outcomes of interest included measures of general health status and psychosocial well being in addition to self-reported somatic symptoms. General health status was ascertained using the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36). The Body Satisfaction Scale was used to define patient concerns about altered body image and shape. To determine whether complex maxillofacial trauma and facial fractures contributed to altered social interactions, the Social Avoidance and Distress scale was used. In addition, information about a patient, his or her injury, and its treatment were ascertained from the medical records. Using the methods described above, 265 patients with Le Fort fractures were identified. These individuals were matched to a similar group of 242 general injury patients. A total of 190 of the Le Fort patients (72 percent of those eligible for the study) and 144 (60 percent) general injury patients were successfully located, and long-term interview data were acquired. Le Fort fracture patients as a group had similar health status outcomes when compared with the group of general injury patients. However, when outcomes were examined by the complexity of the Le Fort fracture, the authors found that study subjects with severe, comminuted Le Fort injuries (group D) had significantly lower SF-36 scores (worse outcomes) for the two dimensions related to role limitations: role limitations due to physical problems and role limitations due to emotional problems (p < 0.05). SF-36 scores for all other dimensions except physical function were also lower for comminuted versus less complex Le Fort fractures, although differences were not statistically significant. Specifically, there was a direct relationship between severity of facial injury and patients reporting work disability. Of group C and D Le Fort patients (severely comminuted fractures) only 55 and 58 percent, respectively, had returned to work at the time of follow-up interview. These figures are significantly lower than the back-to-work percentage of patients with less severe facial injury (70 percent). When study participants were asked if they were experiencing specific somatic symptoms at the time of the interview that they had not experienced before the injury, a significantly larger percent of the Le Fort fracture patients (compared with the general injury patients) responded in the affirmative. Differences between the Le Fort fracture and general injury groups were statistically significant (p < 0.05) for all 11 symptoms. The percentage of patients reporting complaints increased with increasing complexity of facial fracture in the areas of visual problems, alterations in smell, difficulty with mastication, difficulty with breathing, and epiphora, and these differences reached statistical significance. Patients sustaining comminuted Le Fort facial fractures report poorer health outcomes than patients with less severe facial injury and substantially worse outcomes than population norms. It is also this severely injured population that reports the greatest percentage of injury-related disability, preventing employment at long-term follow-up. The long-term goal of centralized tertiary trauma treatment centers must be to return the patient to a productive, active lifestyle.
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