Penetrating Brain Injury

(Brain Injury, Penetrating; Penetrating Wound to the Head; Wound to the Head, Penetrating)


This type of traumatic injury occurs when an object penetrates the skull and damages the brain. One part of the brain may be damaged. Damage can also occur to a larger area of the brain.This is a serious, life-threatening injury. It requires emergency medical care.
The Brain
Brain nerve pathways
When a penetrating brain injury occurs, damage to the brain may occur in one area or a larger region.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Penetrating brain injuries may be caused by any object or external force, such as:
  • Fall, which could cause a piece of the skull to break off and penetrate the brain
  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Gunshot wound to the head
  • Stab wound to the head
  • Sports-related injury
  • Abuse, such as being struck on the head with an object

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of a penetrating brain injury include:
  • Being elderly (higher risk of falls) or younger (higher risk of motor vehicle accidents)
  • Alcohol use disorder or drug abuse
  • Being in a violent environment
  • Playing high-impact sports


A penetrating brain injury is very serious and can lead to death. Gunshot wounds to the head are often fatal. The symptoms, though, vary depending on what caused the injury and how severe it is. Symptoms may include:
  • Heavy bleeding from the head
  • Bleeding from the ears
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizure
  • Loss of bowel and bladder function
  • Loss of movement or sensation in the limbs— paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness— coma may occur after the injury

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