Broken Nose (Fractured Nose)
What is a broken nose (fractured nose)?
A fractured nose happens when you break your nasal bones or cartilage. Nasal fractures may occur during traumatic events, such as car accidents, sports injuries or physical fights.
How common are nasal bone fractures?
Nasal fractures are very common, accounting for 40% to 50% of all facial fractures.
Statistically, nasal bone fractures are twice as common in men and people assigned male at birth than women and people assigned female at birth.
Symptoms and Causes
How do you know if you have fractured your nose?
Fractured nose symptoms include:
- Pain and tenderness.
- Crackling or crunching sound when you touch your nose.
- Nasal septal hematoma (blood that pools in your septum, the tissue that separates your nostrils).
- Swelling around your nose.
- Bruising around your eyes and nose.
- Difficulty breathing through your nose.
- Crooked nose.
- Nasal obstruction (feeling as though something is stuck in your nasal passages).
- Drainage from your nose.
What causes a broken nose?
Blunt force trauma can result in a fractured nose. This may occur during:
- Motor vehicle accidents.
- Sporting injuries.
- Physical fights.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is a nasal fracture diagnosed?
A healthcare provider will perform a physical examination. They’ll gently press around the bridge of your nose and look inside your nasal passages to check for obstructions.
In most cases, imaging tests aren’t necessary. However, if your provider suspects additional facial trauma, they may recommend:
Management and Treatment
What do they do for a broken nose?
Treatments range from icing your nose to undergoing surgery. The treatment that’s right for you depends on the severity of your injuries.
Nasal fracture treatments include:
Ice and pain relievers
If a nasal fracture didn’t make your nose crooked or misshapen, you may not need realignment or surgery. In many cases, taking over-the-counter pain relievers (like acetaminophen or ibuprofen) and applying ice packs can help ease fractured nose symptoms.
Be sure to follow all of your healthcare provider’s guidelines.
Draining of septal hematoma
In cases of severe trauma, you may develop a nasal hematoma on one or both sides of your septum (the part of your nose that separates your two nostrils). A septal hematoma is a pool of blood that collects in your septum.
Left untreated, a septal hematoma can lead to a perforation (hole) in your septum. It can also result in a collapsed nasal bridge — a condition known as a saddle nose deformity. To avoid these complications, your healthcare provider will need to drain the septal hematoma. They should perform this procedure as soon as possible, as tissue necrosis (death) can begin as soon as 24 hours after an injury.
If your nasal bones have shifted out of alignment as a result of your injury, a healthcare provider will need to realign them. To do this, they’ll numb your nose with local anesthesia, then gently push your bones and cartilage back into place. (They may recommend general anesthesia, depending on your age and the severity of your injuries.)
Your provider may wait a few days before performing a manual realignment. This allows some of the swelling to go down first.
Once your provider realigns your nasal bones, they may place gauze packing inside of your nostrils and dressing on the outside of your nose. In some cases, they may also place a temporary splint. You’ll be able to remove the packing and dressing in about one to two weeks.
Your healthcare provider may also give you antibiotics to prevent infection.
If you have a severely broken nose, you may need surgery to help realign your nasal bones and relieve obstructed breathing. A provider typically gives you general anesthesia for your comfort while a surgeon performs nasal reconstruction procedures.
Nasal reconstruction surgeries include:
- Septoplasty. This procedure reshapes your septum — the cartilage and bone that separate your two nostrils. During septoplasty, a surgeon may remove parts of your bone and cartilage, then reshape and reposition the underlying structures. This repairs any holes or perforations and improves breathing.
- Rhinoplasty. During this procedure, a surgeon adds, reduces or rearranges the underlying bone and cartilage to create a new nose shape and eliminate any obstructions. This is the same cosmetic procedure that people get when they want to improve the appearance of their nose.
How long does it take to recover from a broken nose?
In general, a fractured nose takes about three to six weeks to heal.
How can I reduce my risk for nasal fractures?
You can’t prevent nasal fractures altogether. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk:
- Be aware of your surroundings (to reduce falls).
- Wear protective gear when playing contact sports.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have a broken nose?
A broken nose usually isn’t an emergency, but you should still seek medical care as soon as possible. Prompt treatment can reduce your risk of long-term complications like deformities or breathing difficulties.
Mild nose fractures may not require treatment. But if you have a severe fracture — or multiple fractures — you might need treatment or surgery.
No matter what kind of treatment you receive, it should take six weeks or less to recover.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
You should see your healthcare provider if:
- Your nose still hurts and/or is swollen several weeks after treatment.
- You can’t breathe through your nose.
- Your nose starts to bleed.
- Your nose starts to drain clear watery fluid that’s not mucus.
When should I go to the ER?
Following fractured nose treatment, you still might need to visit the emergency room if:
- Your nose continues to bleed.
- You develop a severe headache.
- Your nose is draining clear, watery fluid.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
If you have a broken nose, you may want to ask your healthcare provider a few questions, such as
- What are my injuries?
- What are my treatment options?
- When will my swelling go down?
- How long will it take for my nose to heal?
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a nasal fracture heal on its own?
A broken nose can heal on its own in just a few weeks. But if your nose heals before a healthcare provider realigns it, then you could have permanent complications, such as permanent deformity or difficulty breathing. That’s why it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you think you or a loved one has a fractured nose, visit a healthcare provider as soon as possible. They can determine the extent of your injuries and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. While a broken nose usually isn’t an emergency, it’s important to undergo treatment early on, before you develop potential complications.
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