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Skull fractures in children: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management

Shireen Atabaki, MD, MPH, FAAP
Section Editor
Richard G Bachur, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


The clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management of skull fractures in children are reviewed here.

The approach to severe traumatic brain injury in children and skull fractures in children with inflicted injury is discussed separately. (See "Severe traumatic brain injury in children: Initial evaluation and management" and "Child abuse: Evaluation and diagnosis of abusive head trauma in infants and children", section on 'Skeletal evaluation'.)


Skull fractures result from direct impact to the calvarium and are important because of their association with intracranial injury, the leading cause of traumatic death in childhood. The incidence of skull fractures in children who present for outpatient evaluation of head trauma ranges from 2 to 20 percent [1]. The parietal bone is involved most frequently, followed by the occipital, frontal, and temporal bones. Linear fractures are most common, followed by depressed and basilar fractures.

The causes of skull fracture and the causes of head injury typically are not separated in the literature except for infants, who are at increased risk of skull fractures from minor mechanisms of trauma [2-4]. The major causes of head injuries in children are [5]:

Falls – 35 percent

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 06, 2017.
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