Skull and Facial Fracture
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.
Skull and/or facial fractures are caused by direct trauma to your head. Trauma can be caused by:
- Car, motorcycle, or pedestrian accident
- Penetrating trauma
- Domestic violence, child or elder abuse
- Sports injury
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:
- Simple—the bone is broken, but skin is intact
- Linear—the break is in a thin, straight line through the depth of the skull bone
- Depressed—the bone of the skull is crushed and pushed in toward the brain
- Comminuted—a complex fracture with bone splintering and tearing of the skin
Facial fractures can occur in any of the face’s bones. They are named for specific areas of the face:
- Maxillary fractures involve the upper jaw. They are classified as Le Fort I-V fractures based on their specific location on the maxillary bone.
- Mandible fractures involve the lower jaw.
- Zygomatic fractures involve the cheekbones.
Fractures may either be:
- Closed—the fracture does not break the skin
- Open—the fracture breaks through the skin
Both skull and facial fractures may be life-threatening conditions. They require immediate medical treatment.
Fractures in the Zygomatic Arch and Orbit © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
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:
- Pain and airway assessment
- An examination of the ears for blood, and the nose for blood or fluid that may be leaking from the brain
Glasgow coma scale—neurological exam that tests different parts of the nervous system including:
- Level of consciousness
- Pupil reaction to light
- Response to stimuli
Imaging tests may include
To help reduce your chance of a skull and/or facial fracture, take these steps:
- Avoid situations that put you at risk of physical harm
- Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car
- Always wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle
- Do not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:
- Clean spills and slippery areas right away
- Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower
- Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub
- Put in handrails on both sides of stairways
- Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls
- Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage
Factors that may increase the chance of a skull and/or facial fracture include:
- Children up to 4 years old and advancing age
- Not wearing a seatbelt
- Not wearing a bike or motorcycle helmet
- Occupations with risk of falls from heights
- Playing sports without proper head protection
- Health conditions that increase the risk of falls
Specific factors that may also increase a child's risk of a skull fracture include:
- Previous head injury
- Wheelchair use
- Car seat related accidents, such as drops, flip-overs, or falls
These will depend on the location, type, and extent of the injury.
A skull or facial fracture may cause:
- Swelling and pain
- Bumps and bruises
- Visible bleeding (some injuries cause internal bleeding that may not be seen)
- Leaking cerebrospinal fluid, which usually occurs through the nose
- Blood in the ears or nose
- Inability to move face or mouth
- Uneven dental bite
- Eye problems, such as double vision or inability to completely move the eyes
- Breathing difficulties due to airway obstruction
- Hearing loss
- Numbness or tingling of the face
- Deformity or facial asymmetry
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:
- Any loss of consciousness
- Worsening headache
- Unequal pupils
- Increased pressure in the brain
- Paralysis to the limbs
- Lightheadedness, which may lead to fainting
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Changes in vision
- Sluggishness or grogginess
- Difficulty concentrating
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.