Basilar skull fracture; Depressed skull fracture; Linear skull fracture
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 by bleeding under the skull . This can 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 of skull fracture can include:
Symptoms may include:
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.
Take the following steps if you think someone has a skull fracture:
Follow these precautions:
Get medical help right away if:
Not all head injuries can be prevented. The following simple steps can help keep you and your child safe:
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 Saunders; 2014:chap 41.
Kerr HA. Closed head injury. Clin Sports Med. 2013;32:273-287. PMID: 23522509
Ling GSF. Traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 399.
Last reviewed on: 11/4/2015
Reviewed by: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.