The first AO classification system for fractures of the craniomaxillofacial skeleton

rationale, methodological background, developmental process, and objectives

Laurent Audigé*, Carl Peter Cornelius, Antonio Di Ieva, Joachim Prein, CMF Classification Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


Validated trauma classification systems are the sole means to provide the basis for reliable documentation and evaluation of patient care, which will open the gateway to evidence-based procedures and healthcare in the coming years. With the support of AO Investigation and Documentation, a classification group was established to develop and evaluate a comprehensive classification system for craniomaxillofacial (CMF) fractures. Blueprints for fracture classification in the major constituents of the human skull were drafted and then evaluated by a multispecialty group of experienced CMF surgeons and a radiologist in a structured process during iterative agreement sessions. At each session, surgeons independently classified the radiological imaging of up to 150 consecutive cases with CMF fractures. During subsequent review meetings, all discrepancies in the classification outcome were critically appraised for clarification and improvement until consensus was reached. The resulting CMF classification system is structured in a hierarchical fashion with three levels of increasing complexity. The most elementary level 1 simply distinguishes four fracture locations within the skull: mandible (code 91), midface (code 92), skull base (code 93), and cranial vault (code 94). Levels 2 and 3 focus on further defining the fracture locations and for fracture morphology, achieving an almost individual mapping of the fracture pattern. This introductory article describes the rationale for the comprehensive AO CMF classification system, discusses the methodological framework, and provides insight into the experiences and interactions during the evaluation process within the core groups. The details of this system in terms of anatomy and levels are presented in a series of focused tutorials illustrated with case examples in this special issue of the Journal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S6-S14
Number of pages9
JournalCraniomaxillofacial Trauma and Reconstruction
Issue numberSuppl 1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • classification system
  • craniomaxillofacial
  • diagnostic process
  • fracture
  • reliability

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