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The nasal bone is actually two small bones that are oblong in shape and situated side by side in the upper middle part of the face. When someone speaks of the "bridge" of the nose, it is these bones to which they are referring. Nasal bones vary greatly in size and shape, causing the nose to appear different in individuals. Unlike bones such as those forming the rib cage that function to protect the internal organs of the thoracic cavity, the nasal bone exists primarily to provide shape for the nasal airway. In young children, these bones are quite flexible, but they are hardened in older children and adults.
The nasal bone is the most frequently fractured bone in the face because it absorbs most blows delivered to this part of the body. Nasal bone fractures are more common in adults and older children because the nasal bones are hardened. In children still young enough to have flexible nasal bones, a partial fracture can occur if they are struck in the face with considerable force.
Many people might assume that, because the nasal bone doesn't protect any vital internal organs, there is no threat to life from a broken nose. This usually is true, but the lining of the nasal cavity is very delicate, and significant injuries to the face can cause profuse bleeding. People who are in a weakened health condition or who suffer from hemophilia might be at risk.
If a blow to the face is forceful enough to cause any kind of fracture to the nasal bone, there should be suspicion of possible injury to other facial bones such as those of the cheeks or the eye sockets. There even is the possibility of an injury to the skull, which would require immediate medical attention. A physician might order X-rays and the performance of a computed tomography (CT) scan to detect any injuries to the head that could affect the brain.
In the event that only the nasal bone is fractured, there are two important things that need to be taken into consideration. If the bone was fractured from a lateral blow to the face, the nose could be displaced, resulting in a slight but very visible and permanent deformity. A powerful impact with the face that is head-on can cause the nose to be forcefully pushed upward, resulting in a wider bridge; this also could be a permanent deformity. It is important for people who suffer a fracture of their nasal bone to receive a medical exam not only to verify that there are no other injuries but also to see if the nasal bones need to be set to preserve the patient's physical appearance.