The occipital bone is a saucer-shaped bone at the base of the skull. A fracture of the occipital bone, a specific type of basilar skull fracture, is a potentially life-threatening injury. Attached to the occipital bone are rounded projections, called the occipital condyle, which articulate with the first cervical vertebra and allow the head to flex and/or rotate on the end of the spine. Because of the proximity of the atlas (first cervical vertebra) to the occipital bone, fractures of the occipital bones are also sometimes associated with a C1 vertebrae fracture (Jefferson fracture).
Causes of Occipital Fractures
An occipital fracture occurs as a result of sudden, blunt trauma to the base of the skull at the occipital bone. Common causes of occipital skull fractures are:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Construction accidents
- Falling objects
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- SUV rollover accidents
- Stabbings and assaults
- Staircase falls
Occipital Fractures and Traumatic Brain Injuries
An occipital skull fracture often occurs in conjunction with other serious traumatic brain injuries and associated complications, which may be fatal:
Diffuse axonal injury: This type of injury causes widespread damage when the axons (delicate connecting nerve fibers within the brain) are torn. Diffuse axonal brain injuries are difficult to detect because they may not show up on an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan.
Cerebellar contusion: Bleeding on the ridges of the cerebral cortex. May occur at the site of impact (coup injury) or on the opposite side of the brain where the impact occurred (contrecoup injury). Cerebellar contusions are usually diagnosed with an MRI.
Coup/contrecoup brain lesions: Bruising on the brain at the location of the injury and on the opposite side of the skull caused by the force of the initial impact forcing the brain to “bounce” against the other side of the skull.
Cranial nerve palsy: Partial or complete paralysis of the third, fourth or sixth cranial nerves. May result in difficulty moving the eye and vision loss or reduced depth perception.
Meningitis: A potentially fatal inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain or spinal cord. Meningitis is very common with basilar skull fractures.
Parietal lobe injury: An injury to the brain lobe below the crown of the head, and above the occipital lobe.
Posterior fossa hematoma: A form of traumatic brain injury where blood pools in the intracranial cavity between the foramen magnum and the tentorium cerebelli (the dura matter that separates the cerebellum from the occipital lobe).
Scalp injury: Injury to the skin, connective tissue, or periosteum of the skull. Scalp injuries may occur with or without laceration of the skin.
Traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage: Bleeding of the brain between the arachnoid and pia matter. A subarachnoid hemorrhage is a form of stroke and a potentially fatal medical emergency.
Occipital Skull Fracture Compensation
If you or a member of your family has suffered a skull fracture or brain injury in an accident that was someone else’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, including your medical expenses, lost earnings, and emotional pain and suffering. Contact a California personal injury attorney at Estey & Bomberger for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced attorney. The lawyers at Estey & Bomberger, an AV-rated law firm, represent injured victims throughout California. If your injuries prevent you from traveling, home and hospital visits are available. All consultations are free, and if we handle your case, we will not charge any fees unless we obtain compensation for you.