Chances are you've bumped your head before. Often, the injury is minor because your skull is hard and it protects your brain. But other head injuries can be more severe, such as a skull fracture, concussion, or traumatic brain injury.
Head injuries can be open or closed. A closed injury does not break through the skull. With an open, or penetrating, injury, an object pierces the skull and enters the brain. Closed injuries are not always less severe than open injuries.
It is important to know the warning signs of a moderate or severe head injury. Get help immediately if the injured person has
- A headache that gets worse or does not go away
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Convulsions or seizures
- An inability to wake up
- Dilated (enlarged) pupil in one or both eyes
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- Loss of coordination
- Increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation
Doctors use a neurologic exam and imaging tests to make a diagnosis. Treatment depends on the type of injury and how severe it is.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Diagnosis and Tests
- Computed Tomography (CT) -- Head (American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America) Also in Spanish
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) -- Head (American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America) Also in Spanish
- Skull Radiography (American Society of Radiologic Technologists) - PDF - In English and Spanish
- Ultrasound: Head (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Intracranial hematoma (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Head Injuries (Nemours Foundation)
- Head Injury in Children and Adolescents (Beyond the Basics) (UpToDate)