Basilar skull fracture

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Template:DiseaseDisorder infobox A basilar skull fracture (or Basal skull fracture) is a linear skull fracture involving the base of the skull. This type of fracture is rare, occurring as the only fracture in just 4% of severe head injury patients.[1][2] Moreover, it is most often associated with leakage in the cerebrospinal fluid of the brain into the ear (CSF otorrhea) or the nose (CSF rhinorrhea). These signs are pathognomonic for basilar skull fracture. [3].

Basilar skull fractures can be caused by a blow to the back of the head, or by sudden deceleration of torso but not head (as in traffic accidents), resulting in separation of the suture between the occipital and temporal bones.


Basilar skull fractures commonly involve the roof of the orbits, the sphenoid bone, or portions of the temporal bone.

Bones may be broken around the foramen magnum, the hole in the base of the skull through which the spinal cord enters and becomes the brain stem, creating the risk that blood vessels and nerves exiting the hole may be damaged.[4]

Due to the proximity of the cranial nerves, injury to those nerves may occur.[3] This can cause palsy of the facial nerve or oculomotor nerve or hearing loss due to damage of cranial nerve VIII.[3]

Clinical manifestations


Non-displaced fractures usually heal without intervention. Patients with basilar skull fractures are especially likely to get meningitis.[5]

Notable cases

Basilar skull fracture is a common cause of death in auto racing accidents, notably that of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500, Roland Ratzenberger in the 1994 San Marino Formula One Grand Prix, Gonzalo Rodriguez in practice for the 1999 Laguna Seca Grand Prix, Tony Bettenhausen in practice for the 1961 Indy 500, and Greg Moore at the 1999 Marlboro 500 at California Motor Speedway.

See also


  1. Graham DI and Gennareli TA. Chapter 5, "Pathology of Brain Damage After Head Injury" Cooper P and Golfinos G. 2000. Head Injury, 4th Ed. Morgan Hill, New York.
  2. Orlando Regional Healthcare, Education and Development. 2004. "Overview of Adult Traumatic Brain Injuries." Retrieved on January 26, 2007.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Singh J and Stock A. 2006. "Head Trauma." Retrieved on January 26, 2007.
  4. Brain Injury Association of America (BIAUSA). "Types of Brain Injury." Retrieved on January 26, 2007.
  5. Dagi TF, Meyer FB, and Poletti CA. 1983. The incidence and prevention of meningitis after basilar skull fracture. American Journal of Emergency Medicine. Volume 1, Issue 3, Pages 295-298. PMID 6680635. Retrieved on March 16, 2007.

External links

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