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Certain Facial Injuries Point to Domestic Violence

Broken jaws, cheekbones a hint for doctors to get help for victim, researcher says

THURSDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Distinct patterns of facial injury occur in women who suffer domestic violence, U.S. researchers report.

The findings could help health-care workers identify victims of intimate partner violence, they added.

Dr. Oneida A. Arosarena, of the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues reviewed the medical and dental records of 326 women (average age 35) treated for facial trauma. Of the 45 (13.8 percent) patients who were assault victims, 18 were documented victims of domestic abuse, while 24 of the 26 remaining assault victims could not or did not identify their attackers.

Other common causes of facial injuries among the women in the study included motor vehicle crashes (42.6 percent), falls (21.5 percent), and unknown or undocumented causes (10.7 percent).

The researchers found that assault was typically associated with jaw (mandible) fractures, complicated cheekbone fractures (zygomatic complex fractures), cracks or breaks in bones surrounding the eyes (orbital blow-out fractures), and brain injury.

"Specfically, higher than expected numbers of zygomatic complex fractures, orbital blow-out fractures and intracranial injuries were found in intimate partner violence," the study authors wrote. "Victims assaulted by unknown or unidentified assailants were more likely to have mandible fractures than were other assault victims."

The study was published in the January/February issue of the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery.

Between 88 percent and 94 percent of domestic violence victims seek medical attention for injuries to the head and neck, and 56 percent of them those have facial fractures.

"Because intimate partner violence accounts for 34 percent to 73 percent of all facial injuries in women, facial plastic surgeons and other health-care providers who treat patients with maxillofacial injuries are in a unique position to identify these victims and refer them to local domestic violence service programs for safety planning, information and referrals, support services and advocacy, depending on the victims' needs and choices," the researchers wrote.

More information

The Rural Assistance Center has more about domestic violence.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Jan. 19, 2009

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