Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Head Injury Types

There are a number of specific types of head injuries. Many people will have more than one type, such as a scalp contusion and a laceration.

Types of head injury include:

Head Injury Concussion

A concussion is defined as any injury that causes a temporary loss of brain function. There is no bleeding or major swelling of the brain and recovery is complete.

Symptoms of concussion include:


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Head Injury Epidural Hematoma

A thick layer of tissue, known as the dura, covers the outside of the brain and spinal cord. There are blood vessels both under and above the dura.

An epidural hemorrhage is bleeding that occurs between the dura and the inside surface of the skull. An impact to the skull can fracture the skull. The fracture can rupture an artery directly underneath the bone.

When the artery ruptures, blood collects between the brain and the skull. The blood places pressure against the brain, which results in malfunction of the brain. Symptoms occur within a few hours of the injury. In order to relieve the pressure, the blood must be removed immediately.

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Head Injury Penetrating

Penetrating head injuries include:

Head Injury SAH

A thick layer of tissue, known as the dura, covers the outside of the brain and spinal cord. There are blood vessels both under and above the dura.

A subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding that occurs between the outer surface of the brain and dura. A subarachnoid hemorrhage usually requires surgery to repair a ruptured blood vessel.

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Head Injury Scalp Contusion

A scalp contusion is a bruise that does not involve the skull or brain. A severe scalp contusion can cause bleeding under the scalp, known as a hematoma. Scalp hematomas resolve without treatment.

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Head Injury Scalp Laceration

A scalp laceration is a cut through the surface of the scalp. Some scalp lacerations involve all the skin layers over the skull.

Head Injury Skull Fracture

A skull fracture is a break in the bone of the skull. These occur most commonly at the base of the skull or on the side of the skull, where the bone is the thinnest.

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Head Injury Subdural Hematoma

A heavy layered sheath known as the dura mater covers the outside of the brain and spinal cord. There are blood vessels both under and above the dura.

Bleeding that occurs under the dura is referred to as a subdural hematoma. Subdural hematomas are most common in the elderly, who have fragile veins that can rupture after a minor injury. Surgery is usually required to treat a subdural hematoma.

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Continue to Head Injury Anatomy

Last Updated: Dec 14, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Head Injury References
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  2. Grappling with traumatic brain injury. Lancet. 2007 Dec 8;370(9603):1879. [18068492]
  3. Lee AC, Ou Y, Fong D. Depressed skull fractures: a pattern of abusive head injury in three older children. Child Abuse Negl. 2003 Nov;27(11):1323-9. [14637305]
  4. McKinley J. New challenges in assessing and managing concussion in sports. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Oct 1;76(7):948-9. [17956064]
  5. Ropper AH, Gorson KC. N Engl J Med. 2007 Jan 11;356(2):166-72. Review. No abstract available. Erratum in: N Engl J Med. 2007 Apr 26;356(17):1794. [17215534]
  6. Smits M, Dippel DW, de Haan GG, Dekker HM, Vos PE, Kool DR, Nederkoorn PJ, Hofman PA, Twijnstra A, Tanghe HL, Hunink MG. External validation of the Canadian CT Head Rule and the New Orleans Criteria for CT scanning in patients with minor head injury. JAMA. 2005 Sep 28;294(12):1519-25. [16189365]
  7. Tender GC, Awasthi D. Risk stratification in mild head injury patients: the head injury predictive index. J La State Med Soc. 2003 Nov-Dec;155(6):338-42. [14750754]
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