Objective To determine the pattern and severity of maxillofacial injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident (MVA) resulting from automobile restraint use.
Design Retrospective database review of patients injured in a MVA who were admitted to the level I trauma center at the University of Louisville Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.
Methods Demographic data, drug and alcohol impairment screening, and comorbidity data were obtained from database searches of trauma records. Forty-four patients had an airbag deployed, 34 patients wore seat belts, and 94 patients were unrestrained. All maxillofacial Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) ratings were compared among the three groups.
Results Twenty-two of the 44 patients (50%) in the airbag group sustained only facial injuries. Fifteen of them had lacerations; four others had only facial abrasions. Three of the airbag patients had moderate facial injuries (AIS = 2); none required operative management. The airbag group had a mean AIS rating of 1.13, the seat belt group a mean AIS of 1.29, and the unrestrained group a mean AIS of 1.46. Patients using either seat belts (mean age, 40.5 y) or airbags (mean age, 44.9 y) were older than the unrestrained group (mean age, 39.6 y). Drug and/or alcohol impairment was significantly greater in the unrestrained group (mean, 38%) compared with the seat belt group (mean, 26%) and the airbag group (mean 11%).
Conclusions Use of airbags is associated with less severe maxillofacial injuries compared with either a seat belt alone or no restraint. There is an inherent risk of minor maxillofacial injuries with airbag usage, but the severity of injury is distinctly reduced.