Facing the ugly truth
Hutt Hospital is zeroing in on the leading causes of facial fractures - and it doesn’t make for pretty reading.
Violence accounted for almost 40 per cent of the 1535 maxillofacial fracture cases referred to the hospital’s Plastic, Maxillofacial and Burns Unit in the five years to 2017.
Skull cracks and breaks, fractures to the face, eye sockets, check bones, upper and lower jaw were among the injuries treated by the unit.
The study’s senior author, Dr Swee Tan, said the findings were a ‘‘disturbing outcome’’ and called for the issue to be swiftly addressed.
‘‘We urgently require more effective public health strategies to combat the problem as this type of injury is essentially preventable.
‘‘We know a large proportion are related to alcohol consumption and, probably, the study underestimated the proportion.
‘‘Alcohol is a large part of this and we need to do something about the availability of alcohol ... it is not acceptable,’’ Tan said.
The findings were being presented at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ annual scientific congress in Sydney on Tuesday.
Accident Compensation Cor- poration (ACC) paid $51.5 million for treatment and entitlements for these types of injuries from 2015 to 2017.
But that figure was likely to be the tip of the iceberg, as it didn’t include emergency treatment at the country’s public hospitals.
While alcohol was not a part of the incident, Tan spent five hours piercing together the face of volunteer fireman Peter Fisher after a brutal beating in Martinborough in October 2012.
Fisher, who suffered extensive facial fractures, broken eye sockets and had three teeth knocked out, spent 78 days in hospital and had to learn to walk again after suffering a brain injury and stroke.
ACC figures show that more than half-a-million-dollars was spent on covering treatment and entitlements for facial fracture and dislocations from Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt city claimants between 2015 and 2017.
A further $1.95m was spent on these types of claims in Wellington City and a further $142,376 in Porirua City.
In total, $51.5m was spent nationally covering 15,755 claims for these injuries over the three-year period.
Previously, injuries from road crashes were the most common cause of facial fractures, but this study showed numbers had dramatically declined and only accounted for about 6 per cent of cases.
This was being credited to better public health strategies and education programmes, as well as recent legislation changes.
‘‘It is very significant that road traffic accidents were the leading cause of maxillofacial fractures before the introduction
‘‘That is a great success, in our view ... as a society, we must commit similar efforts to deal with interpersonal violence,’’ Tan said.
Falls, mainly by elderly patients, were the second-most common cause of facial fractures seen by the unit, followed by sporting injuries which both represented about a quarter of the overall total.
Tan believed the Hutt findings were an accurate reflection of the state of play at New Zealand hospitals.