According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one of every five slip-and-fall accidents causes a serious head injury, such as a skull fracture. The purpose of the skull is to protect the soft tissue of the brain from trauma. However, the skull is no more invulnerable than any other bone, and sufficient force from an accident can break it.
There are several different types of skull fractures. Some of the symptoms are predictable, but others may seem counterintuitive. It may be helpful to know more about the specific types of skull fractures that can occur and be able to recognize the symptoms.
Types of skull fractures
Different types of impact can result in various skull fractures. Fractures can be simple, meaning that the skin remains unbroken, or compound, which occurs when the skin is open and often a part of the bone protrudes through it.
A depressed skull fracture is a crush injury in which the broken portion of the skull sinks in toward the brain. A linear skull fracture is a crack in the skull that has the appearance of a thin line. This may occur along one of the seams where the bones of the skull fuse together during infancy.
Symptoms of skull fractures
Some of the symptoms may seem obvious or expected, such as swelling, loss of consciousness, headache or confusion. A person with a head injury may become irritable, restless or drowsy. He or she may experience neurological deficits, such as visual disturbances, loss of balance or slurred speech.
Other symptoms may not seem intuitive, so the significance of them may go unnoticed. For example, a skull fracture can cause blood to pool in the head. This can cause bruising behind the ears or around the eyes. The term for the former is Battle sign, while the latter goes by the scientific name of periorbital ecchymosis or the colloquial “raccoon eyes.”
If facial bruising does not occur near the point of impact, people may not associate it with the head injury. This may cause a delay in treatment.