Diagnostic and Clinical Management of Skull Fractures in Children

J Clin Imaging Sci. 2016 Nov 16:6:47. doi: 10.4103/2156-7514.194261. eCollection 2016.


Objective: The indications of routine skull X-rays after mild head trauma are still in discussion, and the clinical management of a child with a skull fracture remains controversial. The aim of our retrospective study was to evaluate our diagnostic and clinical management of children with skull fractures following minor head trauma.

Methods: We worked up the medical history of all consecutive patients with a skull fracture treated in our hospital from January 2009 to October 2014 and investigated all skull X-rays in our hospital during this period.

Results: In 5217 skull radiographies, 66 skull fractures (1.3%) were detected. The mean age of all our patients was 5.9 years (median age: 4.0 years); the mean age of patients with a diagnosed skull fracture was 2.3 years (median age: 0.8 years). A total of 1658 children (32%) were <2 years old. A typical boggy swelling was present in 61% of all skull fractures. The majority of injuries were caused by falls (77%). Nine patients (14%) required a computed tomography (CT) scan during their hospital stay due to neurological symptoms, and four patients had a brain magnetic resonance imaging. Nine patients (14%) showed an intracranial hemorrhage (ICH; mean age: 7.3 years); one patient had a neurosurgery because of a depressed skull fracture. Nine patients (14%) were observed at our pediatric intensive care unit for a mean time of 2.9 days. The mean hospital stay was 4.2 days.

Conclusions: Our findings support previous evidence against the routine use of skull X-rays for evaluation of children with minor head injury. The rate of diagnosed skull fractures in radiographs following minor head trauma is low, and additional CT scans are not indicated in asymptomatic patient with a linear skull fracture. All detected ICHs could be treated conservatively. Children under the age of 2 years have the highest risk of skull fractures after minor head trauma, but do not have a higher incidence of intracranial bleeding. Neuroobservation without initial CT scans is safe in infants and children following minor head trauma and CT scans should be reserved for patients with neurological symptoms.

Keywords: Computed tomography; neuroobservation; pediatric; radiography; skull fracture.