Complex fractures of the craniofacial skeleton are caused most commonly, in Australia, by motor vehicle accidents, falls, and interpersonal violence. Significant force is required to fracture the facial skeleton, and the long-term effect these forces have on higher brain function is unclear. The study aim was to assess long-term neuropsychologic changes associated with complex fractures of the facial skeleton.
Patients managed for complex fractures of the facial skeleton by the Australian Craniofacial Unit, South Australia, between 2002 and 2011, with at least 1-year follow-up, were assessed using the European Brain Injury Questionnaire. This questionnaire has previously published control data to which results were compared. Of the 2077 patients treated for facial fractures, 46 were identified as having complex fractures of the facial skeleton. Of the 46 patients, 13 were able to be contacted and assessed using the European Brain Injury Questionnaire. Changes in personality and ability to socialize and undertake executive function were noted in approximately 30% of the patients. In addition, approximately 50% of the patients’ family members reported significant changes in the patients’ life after the accident, yet this was only recognized by approximately 30% of the patients. This study shows that, despite the “crumple zone” of the facial skeleton providing some level of protection to the brain, patients having complex fractures of the facial skeleton have long-term neuropsychologic changes that affect both their own and their family’s quality of life.