Object. Most craniocerebral injuries are caused by mechanisms of acceleration and/or deceleration. Traumatic injuries following progressive compression to the head are certainly unusual. The authors reviewed clinical and radiological features in a series of patients who had sustained a special type of cranial crush injury produced by the bilateral application of rather static forces to the temporal region. Their aim was to define the characteristic clinical features in this group of patients and to assess the mechanisms involved in the production of the cranial injuries and those of the associated cerebral and endocrine lesions found in this peculiar type of head injury.
Methods. Clinical records of 11 patients were analyzed with regard to the state of consciousness, cranial nerve involvement, findings on neuroimaging studies, endocrine symptoms, and outcome. Furthermore, an experimental model of bitemporal crush injury was developed by compressing a dried skull with a carpenter's vice.
Seven of the 11 patients were 16 years old or younger. All patients presented with a characteristic clinical picture consisting of no loss of consciousness (six patients), epistaxis (nine patients), otorrhagia (11 patients), peripheral paralysis of the sixth and/or seventh cranial nerves (10 patients), hearing loss (five patients), skull base fractures (11 patients), pneumocephalus (11 patients), and diabetes insipidus (seven patients). Ten patients survived the injury and most recovered neurological function.
Conclusions. Static forces applied to the head in a transverse axis produce fractures in the skull base that cross the midline structures without producing significant cerebral damage. Stretching of cranial nerves at the skull base explains the nearly universal finding of paralysis of these structures, whereas an increase in the vertical diameter of the skull accounts for the occurrence of diabetes insipidus in the presence of an intact function of the anterior pituitary lobe. The association of clinical, endocrine, and neuroimaging findings encountered in this peculiar type of head injury supports the idea that this subset of injured patients has a distinctive clinical condition, namely the syndrome of bitemporal crush injury to the head.