St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Skull fracture

    Basilar skull fracture; Depressed skull fracture; Linear skull fracture

    A skull fracture is a fracture or break in the cranial (skull) bones.

    See also: Concussion

    Considerations

    Skull fractures may occur with head injuries. Although the skull is tough, resilient, and provides excellent protection for the brain, a severe impact or blow can result in fracture of the skull. It may be accompanied by injury to the brain.

    The brain can be affected directly by damage to the nervous system tissue and bleeding. The brain can also be affected indirectly by blood clots that form under the skull and then compress the underlying brain tissue (subdural or epidural hematoma).

    A simple fracture is a break in the bone without damage to the skin.

    A linear skull fracture is a break in a cranial bone resembling a thin line, without splintering, depression, or distortion of bone.

    A depressed skull fracture is a break in a cranial bone (or "crushed" portion of skull) with depression of the bone in toward the brain.

    A compound fracture involves a break in, or loss of, skin and splintering of the bone.

    Causes

    • Head trauma
    • Falls, automobile accidents, physical assault, and sports

    Symptoms

    • Bleeding from wound, ears, nose, or around eyes
    • Bruising behind the ears or under the eyes
    • Changes in pupils (sizes unequal, not reactive to light)
    • Confusion
    • Convulsions
    • Difficulties with balance
    • Drainage of clear or bloody fluid from ears or nose
    • Drowsiness
    • Headache
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Nausea
    • Restlessness, irritability
    • Slurred speech
    • Stiff neck
    • Swelling
    • Visual disturbances
    • Vomiting

    Note: The only symptom may be a bump on the head. A bump or bruise may take up to 24 hours to develop.

    First Aid

    1. Check the airways, breathing, and circulation. If necessary, begin rescue breathing and CPR.

    2. Avoid moving the victim (unless absolutely necessary) until medical help arrives. Instruct someone to call 911 (or the local emergency number) for medical assistance.

    3. If the victim must be moved, take care to stabilize the head and neck. Place your hands on both sides of the head and under the shoulders. Do not allow the head to bend forward or backward, or to twist or turn.

    4. Carefully check the site of injury, but do not probe in or around the site with a foreign object. It can be difficult to know if the skull is fractured or depressed (dented in) at the site of injury.

    5. If there is bleeding, apply firm pressure with a clean cloth to control blood loss over a broad area.

    6. If blood soaks through, do not remove the original cloth. Instead, apply additional cloths on top, and continue to apply pressure.

    7. If the victim is vomiting, stabilize the head and neck (as outlined in number 3, above), and carefully turn the victim to the side to prevent choking on vomit.

    8. If the victim is conscious and experiencing any of the previously listed symptoms, transport to the nearest emergency medical facility (even if the patient does not think medical assistance is necessary).

    DO NOT

    • Do NOT move the victim unless absolutely necessary -- head injuries may be associated with spinal injuries.
    • Do NOT remove protruding objects.
    • Do NOT allow the victim to continue to engage in physical activities.
    • Do NOT forget to observe the victim closely until medical help arrives.
    • Do NOT give the victim any medications before consulting a physician.
    • Do NOT leave the victim alone, even if there are no complaints or obvious injuries.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    • There are problems with breathing or circulation.
    • Direct pressure does not stop bleeding from the nose, ears, or wound.
    • There is drainage of clear fluid from the nose or ears.
    • There is facial swelling, bleeding, or bruising.
    • There is an object protruding from the skull.
    • The victim is unconscious, is experiencing convulsions, has multiple injuries, appears to be in any distress, or is not lucid.

    Prevention

    1. Use car seats or seat belts whenever in a motor vehicle.

    2. Use helmets whenever biking, skating, skiing, climbing, or playing contact sports.

    3. Use equipment designed specifically for the type of sport or recreation in which you are participating.

    4. Provide appropriate supervision for children of any age.

    5. Do not allow children to bike or skate at night.

    6. Provide and wear highly visible clothing.

    7. Teach children to obey traffic rules and signals.

    8. Educate individuals about risks of various work, recreational, or sport activities and how to avoid injury.

    9. Report any concerns you might have about abuse.

    References

    Biros MH, Heegaard WE. Head injury. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 38.

    Leveque JC, Hoff JT. Neurosurgery. In: Greenfield LJ, Mulholland MW, Oldham KT, Zelenock GB, Lillemoe KD, eds. Greenfield's Surgery: Scientific Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005:chap 114.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Skull of an adult

      illustration

    • Skull fracture

      illustration

    • Skull fracture

      illustration

    • Battle's sign - behind t...

      illustration

    • Infant skull fracture

      illustration

      • Skull of an adult

        illustration

      • Skull fracture

        illustration

      • Skull fracture

        illustration

      • Battle's sign - behind t...

        illustration

      • Infant skull fracture

        illustration

      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Skull fracture

          Review Date: 1/8/2012

          Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
          adam.com

          A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


          Back  |  Top
          About Us
          Contact Us
          History
          Mission
          Locations & Directions
          Quality Reports
          Annual Reports
          Honors & Awards
          Community Health Needs
          Assessment

          Newsroom
          Services
          Brain & Spine
          Cancer
          Heart
          Maternity
          Orthopedics
          Pulmonary
          Sleep Medicine
          Urgent Care
          Women's Services
          All Services
          Patients & Visitors
          Locations & Directions
          Find a Physician
          Tour St. Luke's
          Patient & Visitor Information
          Contact Us
          Payment Options
          Financial Assistance
          Send a Card
          Mammogram Appointments
          Health Tools
          My Personal Health
          mystlukes
          Spirit of Women
          Health Information & Tools
          Clinical Trials
          Health Risk Assessments
          Employer Programs -
          Passport to Wellness

          Classes & Events
          Classes & Events
          Spirit of Women
          Donate & Volunteer
          Giving Opportunities
          Volunteer
          Physicians & Employees
          For Physicians
          Remote Access
          Medical Residency Information
          Pharmacy Residency Information
          Physician CPOE Training
          Careers
          Careers
          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
          Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile