Natural History of Isolated Skull Fractures in Children.
Head injury is the most common cause of neurologic disability and mortality in children. We had hypothesized that in children with isolated skull fractures (SFs) and a normal neurological examination on presentation, the risk of neurosurgical intervention is very low. We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of all children aged six to sixteen years presenting to our Level 1 trauma center with traumatic brain injuries between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2014. We also analyzed the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) research data set for the years 2012-2014 using the same metrics. During this study period, our center admitted 575 children with skull fractures, 197 of which were isolated (no associated intracranial lesions (ICLs)). Of the 197 patients with isolated SFs, 155 had a normal neurological examination at presentation. In these patients, there were no fatalities and only three (1.9%) required surgery, all for the elevation of the depressed skull fracture. Analyzing the NTDB yielded similar results. In 5,194 children with isolated SFs and a normal neurological examination on presentation, there were no fatalities and 249 (4.8%) required neurosurgical intervention, almost all involving craniotomy/craniectomy and/or elevation of the SF segments. In conclusion, children with non-depressed isolated skull fractures and a normal Glasgow coma scale (GCS) at the time of initial presentation are at extremely low risk of death or needing neurosurgical intervention.