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updated: 10/4/2011 8:09 AM

Broken nose is the most common facial fracture

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  • The nose is made up of two nostrils shaped by cartilage. Two bones at the bridge of your nose, called the nasal root, hold the cartilage in place.

      The nose is made up of two nostrils shaped by cartilage. Two bones at the bridge of your nose, called the nasal root, hold the cartilage in place.
    Courtesy of Children's Memorial Hospital/Drew Fiel

 

You wanted to know

Students in Elise Diaz's fifth-grade class at O'Plaine School in Gurnee asked, "How do break your nose if there are no bones in the nose?"

The nose is made up of two nostrils shaped by cartilage. Two bones at the bridge of your nose, called the nasal root, hold the cartilage in place.

It's the bone part that might get in the way of a football, get knocked around in a car accident, or be the place where you land if you fall off a play set.

If it breaks, you're sure to feel a lot of pain and experience a lot of swelling. A black eye could go along with that, too.

"It's the most common type of fracture in the face. It's in the top three of all pediatric fractures," said Dr. Stephen Hoff, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Luckily, it's an easy break to fix. Hoff said a broken nose usually needs almost no treatment, and very often it will only require an examination. When the swelling subsides from the injury, typically in about two to three days, a physician will decide if surgery is necessary.

Once in a while, the bones don't mend correctly or the patient can't breathe properly as a result of the break. Surgery might be necessary to mend the nose, and the doctor might need to break the bones in order to set them in the correct place.

Even the flexible cartilage in the bulb of the nose can break, Hoff said.

"It can bend or break and block part of the nose and cause problems with breathing," he said.

What's a nose for? Noses are important to your overall health. When you inhale, you bring oxygen into your blood stream so your body can function at its best. Young people inhale about 18 to 26 times every minute -- that rate slows as people age.

Tiny hairs inside your nose act like the giant brush at a carwash, scraping pollen, pollutants and even small insects out of the air so the oxygen that enters your body is pretty clean.

Your nose is in charge of your sense of smell, which is triggered when molecules stimulate nerve cells in your nose. About 75 percent of taste is actually smell.

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