Injuring the Skull and Brain

By: Alan Haburchak

Though traumatic brain injury does not always involve a fractured skull, the term "open head injury" is used when the affected individual's skull is penetrated by an object, such as a bullet or bone fragment. This differs from a "closed brain injury", which involves a non-invasive blow to the head through sports, a car accident, or another incident. The term "open head injury" actually refers to the condition of the skull rather than that of the brain; there are different grades of severity in traumatic brain injury of both the open and closed varieties. Open head injury is usually diagnosed with the help of x-rays or other technology such as CAT scans or tomography.

Side Effects of Open Head Injury

When the skull is broken, the delicate tissues of the brain are exposed to further harm in the form of infections or further injury during other blows. In addition, bone fragments remaining from a traumatic brain injury such as a fall or car accident can move around and injure the brain after the initial traumatic event. While a fracture in the skull can actually give the brain room to swell without negatively impacting the brain, the brain is at risk for infections in exposed tissue. Open head injuries are very serious and can consequently result in mental illness, paralysis and seizures.

Types of Skull Fractures

There are almost as many varieties of skull fractures as there are ways in which the skull can be broken. The two major varieties of skull fracture in open head injuries are simple "linear" skull fractures and depressed skull fractures.

Linear Fractures

The term "linear skull fracture" is used to refer to a straightforward crack or break in the skull. Linear fractures may be relatively minor and require little or no treatment, though doctors will still want to diagnose and treat the potential damage caused to the brain upon impact and breakage of the skull. The placement of linear fractures is important; when a linear skull fracture extends into the sinus cavity, it may cause leakage of cerebrospinal fluid through the ears or nose and may require insertion of a drainage device. Artery and nerve damage are also potentially consequences of a linear skull fracture located at the base of the skull.

Depressed Skull Fractures

The term "depressed skull fracture" is used to refer to a situation in which the broken bone presses down into or on top of the brain. Depressed skull fractures are common in victims of traumatic brain injury whose heads have been struck with blunt objects. Also considered a dent is what is known as a depressed skull fracture; in the event that the fracture of the skull is or larger than the thickness of the skull bone surrounding it, a surgical procedure is likely necessary.

Treating Open Head Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury

There are several options for the victims of open head injuries and related brain damage. As stated above, some patients may require surgical intervention if the skull is depressed beyond repair or to remove errant bone shards that can threaten further brain injury. Bone fragments may be removed or replaced with synthetic skull pieces to protect the fragile brain tissue. In addition, some patients whose open head injuries are never repaired may have to wear a helmet to prevent re-injury in the case of a fall due to a seizure or other event.

If You've Suffered From Open Head Injury or TBI

If you have suffered from brain injury due to a skull fracture or other open head injury, you may be eligible for compensation and damages to make up for medical expenses, lost wages, and future medical care. To understand the compensation that may be due to you is important, which is why it is advisable to contact a brain injury law firm.

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