Skull and facial fractures are broken bones of the head and face. Injury can result in damage to the brain.
Types of skull fractures include:
Facial fractures can occur in any of the face’s bones. They are named for specific areas of the face:
Fractures may either be:
Both skull and facial fractures may be life-threatening conditions. They require immediate medical treatment.
Fractures in the Zygomatic Arch and Orbit
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Skull and/or facial fractures are caused by direct trauma to your head. Trauma can be caused by:
Factors that may increase the chance of a skull and/or facial fracture include:
Specific factors that may also increase a child's risk of a skull fracture include:
These will depend on the location, type, and extent of the injury.
A skull or facial fracture may cause:
Some trauma causes bleeding in the brain. A hematoma occurs when a pocket of blood leaks into the spaces between the brain and the skull, increasing intracranial pressure. Signs of injury to the brain or hematoma include:
Concussion may cause:
You will most likely be taken to a hospital. A doctor will ask about your symptoms and how your injury occurred. A physical exam will be done. A neurological exam will evaluate your nervous system. Tests may include the following:
If you are in a situation where there is a skull or facial fracture injury, call for medical help right away.
Treatment will depend on the location and extent of the injury.
The first steps will be focused on stabilizing your injury. They may include:
Stabilization may also require emergency surgery to protect surrounding tissues and organs.
Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. Your doctor will need to put these pieces back into their proper place. This may be done:
Nearly half of skull and facial fractures require surgical repair. Surgery may not be done until the fracture is stabilized and swelling at the injury site goes down.
People with these fractures usually need to stay in the hospital. Serious injuries may need to be watched in an intensive care unit. Some people with skull or facial fractures need to have help breathing. A tube is inserted and mechanical ventilation is used to protect and assist breathing.
You may need the following:
Healing time varies by age and your overall health. Children and people in better overall health heal faster. In general, it may take several weeks for a skull or facial fracture to heal.
You will need to adjust your activities while you recover, but complete rest is rarely required. Ice may also be recommended to help with discomfort and swelling.
As you recover, you may be referred to physical therapy or rehabilitation to keep your muscles strong. Do not return to activities or sports until your doctor gives you permission to do so.
To help reduce your chance of a skull and/or facial fracture:
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home:
of Emergency Physicians.
Brain Injury Association of America
Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians
The Brain Injury Association of Canada
Concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116529/Concussion-and-mild-traumatic-brain-injury. Updated March 31, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Facial fractures. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/head-neck/treatments-services/facial-fractures. Accessed August 10, 2015.
Maxillofacial injuries. Patient UK website. Available at: http://patient.info/doctor/maxillofacial-injuries. Updated December 20, 2010. Accessed August 10, 2015.
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900588/Moderate-to-severe-traumatic-brain-injury. Updated May 16, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
NINDS traumatic brain injury information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tbi/tbi.htm. Updated July 17, 2015. Accessed August 10, 2015.
Park CH, Lee JH, Hong SM, Lee OJ. Reduction of inferior orbital wall fractures using a Foley catheter and an endoloop. J Trauma. 2011;70(3):E38-E41.
Skull fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902792/Skull-fracture-emergency-management. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Subdural hematoma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114154/Subdural-hematoma. Updated March 1, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Traumatic brain injury. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/index.html. Updated March 27, 2015. Accessed August 10, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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