A broken bone is always a serious concern that should receive medical attention as soon as possible. However, a fracture of the skull can be catastrophic because, in addition to the broken bone, there is also the potential for damage to the brain.
Several types of skull fractures can occur. The type depends on factors such as the shape of the object that dealt the blow, the force of the impact and the site of trauma.
Basilar skull fracture
This type occurs at the base of the skull, right where it meets the neck. It is the most serious type of skull fracture and usually requires close hospital observation.
A basilar skull fracture can cause tearing of the covering of the brain. This can lead to drainage of clear fluid from the ears or nose. Facial bruising around the eyes and ears is another symptom of basilar skull fracture.
Depressed skull fracture
This type causes a deformity of the head. In a depressed skull fracture, the trauma causes part of the skull to actually sink somewhat. This causes a visible indentation, which, if it extends too deeply, may affect the brain. A severely depressed skull fracture may require surgery to correct.
Linear skull fracture
A linear skull fracture causes the bone to break in a straight line but does not cause any movement. This type of fracture is usually relatively mild compared to the others. It typically does not require surgery.
Diastatic skull fracture
A baby’s skull is actually made up of several different bones to make it easier to pass through the birth canal. As the baby grows, the different parts of the skull gradually fuse into one. However, the lines where the original bones met, called sutures, are still there.
Sometimes a blow to the head can cause a fracture at one of the suture lines, reopening the space between the bones. The term for this is a diastatic fracture. Young children whose bones are still growing are more vulnerable to diastatic fractures.
Skull fractures themselves typically do not cause much pain. However, they can contribute to an intracranial hematoma or another emergency.