A broken nose or nasal fracture is a break or crack in the bone or cartilage of the nose. These breaks most often occur over the bridge of the nose or in the septum (the flexible wall that divides the nostrils). A broken nose can cause pain, along with swelling and bruising around the nose and under the eyes. The nose may look crooked, and the injured person may have trouble breathing. Broken noses commonly occur with other face or neck injuries.
In infants, the bones in the nose are sometimes fractured at the time of delivery. A broken nose in a child is more likely to cause long-term deformities or breathing problems because a child's nasal bones and cartilage have not finished growing. In general, children tend to be at lower risk of a broken nose than adults because a child's immature bones are generally less brittle and more flexible.
In mild fractures, the injury causes only some mild swelling and a brief nosebleed, so a person may be unaware of the break unless the nose heals with a slight deformity. In these cases, a health care provider may want to see the patient within the first week after the injury (after the swelling has gone down) to see if the nose has moved out of its normal shape. In severe fractures, however, the nose can be obviously deformed or shifted out of its normal midline position immediately after impact. There also may be a severe nosebleed, a blocked nostril or air-flow problems. If the nose injury appears to be severe or is accompanied by other facial injuries, a doctor may order an X-ray or CT scan to determine the extent of damage to the nose and face. Occasionally, surgery may be needed to correct a nose or septum that has been bent out of shape.