Skull Fracture

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

A skull fracture is a break in one or more bones of your head. Your skull protects your brain, nerves, blood vessels, and inner ears from injury.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

  • A lumbar drain, spinal tap, or surgery may cause an infection. With surgery, you may bleed more than expected. Your brain, nerves, and blood vessels may get damaged. You may have trouble controlling and moving your facial muscles, or you may lose feeling in areas of your face. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke.

  • Without treatment, your signs and symptoms may get worse. Your neck pain, dizziness, and eye or hearing problems may become permanent. You may lose your hearing completely. You may get a serious infection if fluid is leaking around your brain. Your nerves may be injured, making it hard for you to speak or swallow. You may have trouble moving parts of your face. You may also have trouble moving your arms and legs. A skull fracture that is not treated can be life-threatening.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Neurologic exam:

This is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show caregivers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. Caregivers will check how your pupils (black dots in the center of each eye) react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.

Medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.

  • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.

  • Sedative: This medicine is given to help you stay calm and relaxed.

  • Steroid medicine: This medicine helps decrease inflammation.

Tests:

  • Imaging tests:

    • Cerebral arteriography: A cerebral arteriography, or cerebral angiogram, is done to take pictures of the blood vessels in your head. Ask your caregiver for more information about cerebral arteriography.

    • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your head. The CT scan may be used to look at your skull, brain tissue, and blood vessels. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

    • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your head. An MRI may be used to look at your brain, skull, nerves, or blood vessels. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

    • X-rays: You may need x-rays of your skull to check for broken bones and tissue swelling.

  • Ear exam: An ear exam may be done to check for bleeding or discharge from your ears. You may also need tests to check your hearing.

  • Electroneurography: Electroneurography is done to check for damage to your facial nerves.

  • Electromyography: Electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical activity of your facial muscles. Your facial muscles are tested at rest and while you are using them. An EMG test may also check the nerves that control your facial muscles.

Treatments:

  • Lumbar drain: A lumbar drain may be needed to decrease pressure in your head and brain. Increased pressure occurs when cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) builds up. CSF is the fluid around your brain. A tube is put into your lower back that will stay there for a period of time. The excess CSF fluid will drain out of the tube. The fluid may be sent to a lab for tests. These tests help check for problems such as infection or bleeding around your brain and spinal cord.

  • Spinal tap: A spinal tap is done to drain CSF fluid and decrease pressure in your head and brain. A needle is inserted into the lower area of your back. A small amount of CSF will be drained through the needle. Your caregiver may send your CSF to a lab for tests. You may need more than one spinal tap.

  • Surgery: Surgery may be needed to fix your damaged skull bones or to remove pieces of bone. Pins, plates, or screws may be used to hold the bones together or to keep your spine stable. Injuries to your brain, nerves, or blood vessels may also be treated. If you have a wound, you may also need surgery to remove damaged tissues and prevent infection.

  • Halo traction: A halo is a device used to keep you from moving your head and neck. Halos are often used if your skull fracture is not stable.

  • Neck brace: A neck brace prevents you from moving your head and neck. A neck brace may be soft or hard and helps prevent further injury while your fracture heals.

Activity:

You may need to rest in bed with your head raised for a period of time after your injury. Avoid straining, such as blowing your nose or sneezing, to prevent increasing pressure in your skull. If fluid from around your brain is leaking, straining may worsen the leak.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Skull Fracture (Inpatient Care)

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