The zygomatic bone is a facial bone in the front of the skull. Also known as the malar bone, the zygomatic bone makes up the cheekbone and the outside portion of the eye socket. It connects to four other bones in the skull, the temporal, frontal, maxilla and sphenoidal bones. There are two zygomatic bones, one on each side of the face. They are roughly diamond-shaped.
Zygomatic comes from the Greek term zygoma or zygon, which means yoke. The zygomatic bone is sometimes referred to as the zygoma bone, but this term also is sometimes used to indicate the zygomatic process or the zygomatic arch, other areas of the facial bones of the skull. Attached to the zygomatic bone is the zygomatic major, a facial muscle that helps produce facial expressions such as smiling.
Fractures to the zygomatic bone are the second most common facial fractures, after nasal bone fractures. They occur most often in younger men in their 20s and are most commonly caused by sports injuries, falls, automobile accidents or physical assault. Wearing a seat belt while driving and making use of protective sports gear can reduce the possibility of injury.
Damage to the cheekbone structure also is common among women suffering from domestic abuse. Unfortunately, these types of fractures are easy to miss in initial examinations after facial trauma because they do not always show clearly in traditional X-rays. Damage to the zygomatic bone must be treated promptly in order to prevent permanent facial deformity or reduced mobility of the jawbone. Vision also can be affected.
Treatment for zygomatic bone fractures varies depending on the exact location and severity. In some cases, surgery is necessary to ensure proper alignment as the bone heals. A danger in fractures of this bone is a change in the size or shape of the eye socket, which can cause long-term vision problems or damage to the eyeball. Surgical procedures often must focus on preserving the eye socket structure and the proper alignment of the eyeball within the socket.
In severe fractures of the zygomatic bone, specially made plates and screws must be used to stabilize and restructure the bone and aid in healing. Other measures sometimes must be taken to protect the eyeball and preserve the proper structure of the ocular orbit. After surgery to reconstruct the zygomatic bone, most surgeons will prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. Infection after this procedure is rare.