November 20, 2001
By Nancy Volkers
Most victims of domestic violence who visit the emergency room have injuries to the face, and more than half have been abused previously.
The information comes from the first research to document patterns of facial injuries resulting from domestic violence. Scientists reviewed the charts of 236 women admitted to the emergency department at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Ore., over a five-year span.
“We found that facial injuries are the most common injuries associated with domestic violence ? 81 percent of the patients suffered facial injuries,” said Bach Le, D.D.S., M.D., first author on the study.
Thirty percent of the victims had at least one broken bone in the face. A broken nose was most common. The injuries also tended to be on the left side of the face, consistent with a right-handed attacker. A fist was used to inflict injury in 67 percent of cases. Bottles, sticks, pipes, knives and guns were used less frequently.
About one-third of the women were under the influence of alcohol at the time of treatment, and 66 percent had been abused before.
“I think this [research] may be able to help in recognizing patterns,” Le said. “As people who treat facial injuries, dentists and physicians need to keep in mind that domestic violence is a lot more prevalent than we thought, and we need to talk to patients with these types of injuries.”
For example, he said, “If a woman comes into the [emergency department] with a nasal injury or a left-sided injury, think about domestic violence. And you need to really ask and prod them into [talking about] the circumstances of their injury, because most patients do not admit they’ve been abused.”
Le is a clinical professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Southern California Medical Center.
The study was published in the November issue of the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.