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About Skull Fractures

A skull fracture is a break in the bone of the skull. For most skull fractures, treatment consists of close observation in the hospital and medication to relieve pain during the healing process. However, some skull fractures require surgery.

There are four major types of skull fracture:

  • Linear skull fracture—This is the most common type of skull fracture. In a linear fracture, there is a break in the bone, but the bone does not move. Patients with these fractures may be observed in the hospital for a brief amount of time and can usually resume normal activities in a few days. Usually, no interventions are necessary.
  • Depressed skull fracture—This type of fracture may be seen with or without a cut in the scalp. In this fracture, part of the skull is sunken from the trauma and may require surgical intervention, depending on the severity, to help correct the depression.
  • Diastatic skull fracture—This is a fracture that occurs along one of the suture lines in the skull. In this type of fracture, the normal suture lines widen. Such fractures are most often seen in infants.
  • Basilar skull fracture—This is the most serious type of skull fracture and involves a break in the bone at the base of the skull. Patients with this type of fracture frequently have bruises around their eyes and behind their ears. They may also have clear fluid draining from their noses or ears. This fluid, called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), is normally held closely around the brain within the dura mater. CSF may leak if the dura mater is torn. Patients with basilar skull fractures usually require close observation in the hospital.

Also, a skull fracture can be referred to as either compound or closed. In a compound fracture, bone exits and is visible through the skin, or a deep wound exposes the bone through the skin. In a closed fracture, bone is broken, but the skin is intact.

A compound fracture is considered an emergency. Seek immediate medical attention for this type of fracture.

Other terms used to describe a skull fracture are:

  • Greenstick—The break is an incomplete fracture and the broken bone is not completely separated.
  • Comminuted —The break is in three or more pieces.

patient journey

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