A skull fracture is a fracture or break in the cranial (skull) bones.
Skull fractures may occur with head injuries. The skull provides good protection for the brain. However, a severe impact or blow can cause the skull to break. It may be accompanied by concussion or other 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 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.
In some cases, the only symptom may be a bump on the head. A bump or bruise may take up to 24 hours to develop.
If you think someone has a skull fracture:
Although no child is injury-proof, parents can take some simple steps to keep their children from getting head injuries.
Not all head injuries can be prevented. The following simple steps can help keep you and your child safe:
Basilar skull fracture; Depressed skull fracture; Linear skull fracture
Kerr HA. Closed head injury. Clin Sports Med. 32 (2013) 273-287.
Heegaard WG, Biros MH, Head injury. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 41.
Ling GSF. Traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 406.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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