Fractured Skull: Causes Symptoms and Treatments, Causes

A Fractured Skull Overview

Are you recovering from a fractured skull and would like to know what free private treatment plans you may be entitled to receive? You can speed up your recovery from a fractured skull by finding out if you are entitled to free private medical treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare following your head injury.

You could qualify for free help needed to move forward and get your emotional and physical health back on track. This guide highlights the causes, symptoms and prognosis associated with serious head injuries and skull fractures and how you can take the right steps towards making the best possible recovery from a fractured skull or serious head injury.

Major head injuries and fractured skulls are one of the leading causes of UK hospital admissions every year. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of a fractured skull or a serious head injury, and what circumstances are likely to lead to injuries of this nature, can save your or someone else’s life.

To find out more about fractured skulls, click on the Select a Section below.

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Fractured Skull and Severe Head Injuries

Fractured skull

Fractured skull

Fractured skull injuries always require urgent medical attention, due to the risk of serious brain damage. Even if you feel well immediately after the injury, a forceful blow or bump to the head can potentially cause a blood clot between the skull and the surface of the brain known as a subdural haematoma, or bleeding inside and around the brain which is known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage. Without prompt medical attention, both conditions can lead to an increased pressure on the brain resulting in brain damage.

There is also an increased risk developing ongoing epilepsy following a fractured skull that leads to a brain injury. You should always seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you are with has suffered a serious head injury or a suspected skull fracture.

Are There Different Types of Skull Fractures?

If a fractured skull is suspected following a head injury, a CT scan will help the diagnostic process. There are several types of fractured skull. The most common include:

  • simple fracture otherwise known as a “closed” fracture – this is where the skin has not been broken and there is no evidence of any damage to the surrounding tissue
  • compound fracture otherwise known as an “open” fracture – with this kind of fracture, the brain is exposed due to both the skin and tissue being broken
  • linear fracture – this is where the break in the skull looks like a straight line
  • depressed fracture – a depressed fractured skull causes part of the skull to be crushed inwards.
  • basal fracture – this describes a fractured base of the skull

Open fractures are typically the most serious of all skull fractures due to an increased risk of bacterial infection from the open wound.

Depressed fractures can also be potentially very serious if fragments of bone press against the brain.

What are the Symptoms of a Fractured Skull/Severe Head Injury?

Being aware of the symptoms of a fractured skull or a serious head injury can save yours or someone else’s life. Seek immediate emergency medical attention if you or someone you are with experiences any of the following symptoms following a head injury.

  • unconsciousness – where you or someone else has lost consciousness, even for a short period of time
  • concussion – where you or the person you are with experiences a sudden but temporary reduction in mental function following a head injury. You may notice that a person suffering from a concussion appears dazed or confused, quite often with a vague expression. A person does not need to have been knocked unconscious to experience concussion
  • seizures or fits
  • problems with speaking or difficulties staying awake
  • sensory changes such as a loss of hearing or any changes in vision
  • vomiting more than once
  • blood or transparent liquid from the nose or ears
  • loss of memory (amnesia)
  • sudden bruising or swelling behind the ears or around the eyes
  • difficulty with co-ordination and/ or walking

You should dial 999 immediately if you notice or experience any of the above symptoms following a head injury.

Do I Need to Go to Hospital if a Fractured Skull is Suspected?

It is important that you follow the advice of a medical professional if you have a suspected fractured skull. Depending on the extent of the injury and how the injury occurred, you may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment and/ or observation. It is likely that you will be admitted to hospital if:

  • Scans or x rays have shown a fractured skull or identified a problem
  • You are displaying symptoms of a potential neurological issue following a head injury
  • Your GCS (Glasgow Coma Scale) score has not returned to 15
  • You have other injuries or undiagnosed symptoms because of your fractured skull
  • You appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • You live alone or there is nobody at home to look after you

A hospital visit is also required if you or someone you know has injured their head and:

  • The head injury was caused by a hard knock to the head at speed, such as falling from a height of one metre or more or being hit by a car
  • You or the person you are with has undergone previous brain surgery
  • You or the person you are with has previously experienced problems with uncontrollable bleeding, has a blood clotting disorder, or is taking medication that increases the risk of bleeding problems, such as Warfarin
  • You or the person you are with has consumed alcohol or has taken drugs
  • The injury was deliberate

How are Skull Fractures Diagnosed?

If you, or someone you are with has suffered a serious head injury or skull fracture, you should dial 999 or immediately visit your nearest A & E department. To help make an accurate diagnosis of your head injury, the medical team in the ambulance or at the hospital will try to establish the cause of the injury by asking you or the person you are with how the injury occurred and what symptoms have been present since the injury took place.

If you have a suspected fractured skull, the following diagnostic procedure is likely to be carried out.

Computerised Tomography (CT) scan

CT scans are completely painless procedures and help to identify a fractured skull by creating detailed images of the inside of your head. It’s during this scan that your medical team will be able to determine if there is any bleeding or swelling inside the brain. If the scan displays a normal result, you may be discharged from hospital, although you are likely to be monitored for a period of time for the medical team to ensure that you haven’t suffered any serious problems as a result of your injury.

Assessing your Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)

The Glasgow Coma Scale is a score-based system that is often used to diagnose the severity of any brain damage following a fractured skull injury. During your assessment, the GCS will score you out of a possible 15 on:

  • Your verbal response
  • Your physical actions
  • Your ability to open your eyes

Your medical team will use a different version of the GCS for children under the age of five, so you will be advised accordingly if you are in hospital for a fractured skull in a baby or toddler.

Based on the GCS score, the severity of head injuries is classed as the following:

  • Minor – a GCS score of 13 or more
  • Moderate – a GCS score between 9 and 12
  • Severe – a GCS score of 8 or less

The highest possible score of 15 means your eyes are open, you are fully aware of who you are, where you are, and you can move and speak when you are asked to. A patient with the lowest possible score of 3 will be unresponsive with little chance of survival.

These initial assessments will determine whether you are allowed home, or you need to remain in hospital for further tests and treatment. If you are discharged from hospital, you may need after-care at a specialist clinic or a neurological centre.

How is a Skull Fracture Treated?

In most cases, simple linear skull fractures will heal on their own, without medical intervention. The healing period may last for several months, although the pain associated with this kind of fractured skull typically lasts no longer than 10 days.

For an open fractured skull, antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to prevent the development of a bacterial infection.

In severe skull fractures, or if you have a depressed fractured skull, surgical treatment may be required to help prevent damage to the brain. This type of surgery is almost always undertaken with general anaesthetic.

If surgery is carried out for a fractured skull injury, inward pressing bone fragments would be removed and restored to their normal position. Mesh or metal wire is typically used to reconnect pieces of the fractured skull during surgery.

Once the pieces of the fractured skull are back in their correct place, your head injury should normally heal by itself. A doctor and surgeon would explain the specific procedure you are undergoing in further detail.

What After-care Following Skull Fracture Surgery Would I Need?

Fractured skull treatment

Fractured skull treatment

As with all operations, you will need to recover for a period following surgery for a fractured skull. This may be in an intensive care unit (ICU) or a high-dependency ward (HDU), depending on the extent of your operation and how well you responded to your surgery.

If you spend time in an ICU following surgery for your fractured skull, you may be placed on a ventilator, where oxygen-enriched air is moved in and out of your lungs. Your condition will be constantly monitored until you are well enough to move to an HDU or another ward.

As with any major injury or operation, when you can go home will depend on the results of your medical tests and how well you are recovering. Following surgery for a fractured skull, you will usually be discharged from hospital if your scans show no evidence of brain damage, you are at low risk of developing brain damage and you are not presenting with any other concerning symptoms.

If you drive, you will need a friend or a family member to take you home, as you will not be allowed to operate any vehicle until you have made a complete recovery. If you live alone, the hospital staff may advise that someone stays with you for the first 24 hours following your return from hospital.

What is the Prognosis for Skull Fractures?

The prognosis for a fractured skull depends on the specific nature of the injury (i.e. the severity of the fracture), your individual circumstances such as your age and your overall general health.

Before you are discharged from hospital, your doctor or surgeon would explain how you can help your recovery at home in the weeks following your fractured skull injury.

Skull fracture NHS advice for adults

During your recovery from a fractured skull, you may be advised by medical professionals to:

  • Arrange for a friend or family member to stay with you for the first 24 hours after returning home from hospital
  • Avoid alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Set plenty of rest in a calm, stress-free environment
  • Speak to your doctor before taking any sleeping pills, sedatives or tranquillisers (even if they have been prescribed for you)
  • Avoid taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen. If you have a headache, take Paracetamol or contact your doctor for advice on what medicines are safe to take.
  • Avoid taking part in any contact sports, rugby, boxing and football for at least the first three weeks following your injury. Depending on the extent of your fractured skull and your recovery, your doctor will advise you when it is safe to play such sports again
  • Take time away from work or school until you have made a full recovery from your fractured skull
  • Avoid driving any kind of vehicle, riding a bicycle or operating machinery until your doctors deems it safe to do so

You should seek urgent medical attention if at any time you feel unwell or you develop any new or worsening symptoms.

Recovery advice for a fractured skull in a child:

Fractured skull recovery requires different home care for a child and an adult, so it’s important that you follow the advice below if you are dealing with a fractured skull in a baby, a toddler or any child under the age of 16.

Whilst helping your child to recover from a fractured skull, your medical team may advise you to:

  • Give your child Paracetamol to ease any headaches they may experience after a fractured skull During the recovery period, you should avoid giving your child NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen
  • Offer your child light meals for the first few days following their head injury
  • Try not to let your child get overexcited. (This is especially important if you are dealing with a fractured skull in a toddler)
  • not arrange too many visitors upon your child’s return from hospital.
  • Do not allow your child to take part in any contact sports until the doctor advises they can
  • Keep your child away from situations where they are likely to play roughly

Fractured skull recovery time very often depends on how well you look after yourself at home in the first few weeks after your injury. To give yourself the best chance of making a full recovery from your fractured skull, it is crucial that you follow the advice given by your medical team and consult your doctor if you develop any changes in your symptoms.

Are There Any Complications Associated with a Fractured Skull?

A severely fractured skull can potentially lead to complications, largely due to the risk of brain damage. Although not everyone will suffer a fractured skull with long-term effects, a very serious injury to the head can prove fatal. If your fractured skull is particularly severe, you will be closely monitored in hospital to ensure that any complications are dealt with quickly.

Infection

If your fractured skull injury has broken the membrane surrounding your brain, you will be at an increased risk of developing a bacterial infection from the open wound. In a case like this, a medical team will ensure that your head wounds are kept clean to reduce the risk of external bacteria entering through the broken skin. You may also be prescribed antibiotics to further lower the risk of infection.

Post-concussion syndrome

For most people who suffer a concussion with a fractured skull, symptoms are temporary and short-lived. There is, however, a small possibility of developing Post-Concussion Syndrome following a head injury.

It is important that you seek medical advice if you experience any of the following symptoms following a fractured skull injury:

  • Problems with self-care
  • Being unable to carry out duties at work
  • Frequent or persistent headaches
  • Dizziness or a feeling of being off balance
  • Feelings of weakness
  • Tinnitus
  • Nausea or feeling sick
  • Fatigue and/ or sleeping problems
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Difficulty understanding things/ people
  • feeling like you can’t concentrate or focus

It typically takes around 3 months for the symptoms of Post Concussion Syndrome to subside, but your GP will decide whether you need further treatment following your fractured skull injury. If this is the case, you may be referred to a specialist who will be able to assess your condition in more detail.

Impaired consciousness

Some severe fractured skull injuries can cause impaired consciousness, such as a minimally conscious state or a coma. These kinds of disorders affect the ability to use basic reflexes such as being able to open your eyes and the ability to use more layered actions such as remembering and communicating.

How long these states of impairment last depend on the extent of the fractured skull injury. Some patients may wake up or transition into a different state of consciousness after just a few weeks, while unfortunately, some people never regain consciousness following a fractured skull.

Brain damage

The job of your skull is to protect your brain, and although it is incredibly strong, there is only so much force it can take. A hard blow or bump to the head can damage the brain in several ways, depending on the location of the injury, how the injury occurred and the severity of the injury itself. Brain damage can occur from increased pressure caused by a subdural haematoma, where a blood clot forms between the skull and the surface of the brain, or a subarachnoid haemorrhage, where bleeding takes place inside and around the brain. There is also a higher risk of developing long-term epilepsy following a brain injury.

Brain injuries can also lead to several other problems, which may be temporary or permanent, depending on the specific injury.

Some of the effects of a brain injury can include:

  • Physical problems

If you suffer from a brain injury because of a fractured skull, you may experience problems with your balance and co-ordination. You may also find that you become tired more easily and experience frequent headaches.

  • Hormonal changes

If the pituitary gland (the brain’s gland that controls thyroid function) is damaged from a fractured skull, you may develop hypothyroidism; a condition where your thyroid becomes under-active.

  • Sensory issues

It is possible to experience changes in your senses after a fractured skull injury. This may include a loss of your sense of smell and taste, changes in your vision and a reduction in your ability to control your body’s temperature.

  • Cognitive problems

Problem solving and information processing may become more difficult after suffering a brain damage from a fractured skull. You may also notice that you cannot remember things as clearly or you experience difficulties communicating.

  • Behavioural and emotional effects

You may feel angrier or you may become more easily stressed or irritated following a fractured skull injury. You may also find that you are less empathetic to other people’s emotions and that you display more erratic feelings than you did before your fractured skull injury occurred. Your brain controls every one of your emotions and actions, therefore there is no exhaustive list on how a brain injury can affect your feelings and behaviour.

Experiencing a fractured skull or brain injury can have a profound effect on your life and those who care about you. There are many great charities and organisations that offer free specialist aftercare for a fractured skull and head injuries. These professionals can help you with emotional support and advise you on rehabilitation techniques for your fractured skull injury.

The following organisations may be able to help offer the support you need as you recover from a fractured skull:

  • Brain and Spine Foundation
  • Headway (the brain injury association)
  • Brain and Spinal Injury Centre (BASIC)

Contact Us Today to Find Out if You Qualify for Free Treatment for a Fractured Skull

You can quickly find out if you are entitled to free private treatment for a fractured skull or free private physiotherapy in your area by contacting us today.

Useful links

If you, a family member or friend suffered a fractured skull and would like more information on severe head injuries, the link below offers valuable information on symptoms and recovery:

More information on severe head injuries

To find out more information about fractured skull conditions and treatments, please follow the link below:

Conditions and treatments for fractured skull injuries

If you suffered a serious head injury and would like to know more about how rehabilitation can help you during your recovery, the link below provides useful information on private physiotherapy:

Physiotherapy following a serious head injury