A calvarial fracture means that a break in the skull has occurred. Your doctor can use imagery like CT and MRI scans, along with neurological testing, to determine how extensive the injury is.

bicycle delivery person rubbing their headShare on Pinterest
Getty Images

Traumatic brain injuries were responsible for 223,135 hospitalizations in 2019. These injuries can be extremely serious, and many may include a calvarial fracture.

It’s important to know the warning signs of a calvarial fracture so you can seek appropriate medical help.

Not all skull fractures require surgery, but it is important to see your doctor if you suspect a fracture so they can determine the extent of any possible injuries and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

Learn more about head injuries.

A calvarial fracture is a break in a part of the skull called the calvarium. Calvarial fractures can include any break in the frontal, occipital, and parietal bones of the skull.

Learn more about the bones of the skull.

Symptoms of a calvarial fracture include:

  • pain and swelling
  • depressions or abnormalities in the skull
  • bruising or redness in the injured area, around the eyes, or behind the ears
  • blood or clear fluid coming out of the ears and nose
  • headache
  • dizziness and confusion
  • nausea and vomiting
  • altered mental status
  • forgetfulness
  • severe pain

If a calvarial fracture is suspected, doctors will typically perform a physical exam and use medical imagery like a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the extent of the injury.

Treatment for a calvarial fracture depends on the exact location and extent of the fracture.

Smaller fractures may only require observation. In addition to a brain scan, your doctor may wish to do a neurological evaluation before releasing you to go home. Follow-up appointments will typically be scheduled to ensure proper healing.

More severe calvarial fractures may require surgery. In these cases, surgeons can elevate any bone fragments that have been pressed toward the brain, thoroughly clean the area, and address other concerns like bleeding in the brain.

Antibiotics and medications to prevent seizures will typically be given before and after surgery.

Following a skull fracture, someone may experience:

There is a possibility for long-term neurological damage following a calvarial fracture. If the brain is affected by the cause of the fracture, you may lose language or motor skills.

Risk factors for calvarial fractures include:

  • falls or direct blows to the head
  • seizure disorders
  • gait instability (being unsteady on your feet)
  • vehicle accidents
  • sport-related injuries
  • exposure to abusive relationships and environments
  • birth trauma

The outlook for someone with a calvarial fracture depends upon factors like:

  • the location of the fracture
  • the extent of the damage
  • whether they had complications like infections or seizures
  • the amount of time before treatment
  • having an underlying brain condition
  • if there is a brain hematoma (bruise or bleed) and how severe it is

People who get treatment quickly, have a simple fracture, and have minimal complications are more likely to have positive outcomes.

Anyone with more complications and complex fractures will typically require more hospital time and have a greater risk of fatality.

Can a skull fracture heal on its own?

Some skull fractures do not require surgery. However, it’s important that doctors monitor and check all potential skull fractures to determine the extent of any injuries and what types of treatment may be necessary.

Are pediatric skull fractures more common than adult ones?

Children are more likely than adults to experience head trauma and skull fractures. One reason for this is that a child’s skull is thinner.

A child’s head also makes up a larger percentage of their body than an adult’s head does.

What kinds of information should you provide your doctor about a head injury?

It’s important to tell your doctor about the events leading up to the head injury and how you responded right after the injury, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • crying out
  • altered mental status
  • headache
  • pain
  • how your condition has changed since the injury

A doctor will also need to know about your past medical history, including any medications you’re currently taking.

Calvarial fractures are breaks in the skull. Often the result of a fall or accident, serious health complications can result.

If you believe that you might have a calvarial fracture, it’s important to notify a doctor right away. They can perform diagnostic imaging like a CT or MRI scan to determine the extent of the injury.