Spontaneous ventilation of the frontal sinus after fractures involving the frontal recess

Aria Jafari, Brian A. Nuyen, Courtni R. Salinas, Alan M. Smith, Adam S. DeConde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: Frontal sinus fractures (FSF) have potentially catastrophic consequences due to frontal recess (FR) obstruction and proximity to the brain and orbit. Lack of follow-up and ability to predict which type of fractures predispose to complications has biased surgeons toward definitive interventions such as sinus obliteration and cranialization. These procedures carry inherent risk and may be unnecessary in a subset of patients. This study seeks to better characterize spontaneous ventilation in subjects with FSFs, including those involving the FR. Materials and methods: Review of a prospectively maintained trauma database between 2009 and 2013 at a level 1 trauma center. Patients with frontal sinus fractures with follow-up imaging (>. 6. weeks) available were included. The medical records and imaging were reviewed for evidence of spontaneous ventilation of the frontal sinus. Results: Nineteen patients sustained frontal sinus fractures in the study period with mean imaging interval of 67.4. weeks (range, 6-188.4. weeks). Injury mechanisms included fall (32%), assault (31%), motor vehicle accident (17%), pedestrian-versus-automobile (12%), and gunshot wound (8%). 8/19 patients (42%) sustained FSFs involving the FR and 7/8 (87.5%) spontaneously ventilated by time of interval imaging. The one patient with persistent radiographic sinus opacification was associated with a naso orbital ethmoid and medial orbital blowout fracture. 6/19 patients (32%) sustained FSF sparing the FR, and all spontaneously ventilated by the time of interval imaging. 5/19 patients (26%) underwent surgical intervention. Conclusions: An expectant, sinus-preserving approach to acute FSFs involving the FR is safe and effective. Etiology of re-ventilation failure may be due to tissue obstruction, rather than the frontal recess fracture itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
StateAccepted/In press - Mar 15 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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