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Emergency Treatment for Head Injury


Head injuries can be internal (affecting the brain or skull) or external (involving the scalp). They are considered open if the skull is broken and closed if it remains intact. Most head injuries should be evaluated by a doctor. 

Dignity Health doctors and nurses are equipped to triage all types of emergencies and trained to provide a full range of care. If you need to go to the ER for head injury in the Bay Area, wait at home, not the ER. Use our Online Waiting Room.

What Causes Head Injury?

Head injuries are usually caused by trauma. They can be the result of a fall, assault, car accident, and accidents during sports, work, or other activities. 

Head Injury Symptoms Treated by Dignity Health

Symptoms of head injury depend on the specific injury. If swelling occurs, it may appear as a knot on the scalp. Injuries to the scalp may bleed profusely, due to the large number of blood vessels close to the skin.

Internal head injuries don’t always cause symptoms right away, so it’s not always possible to know if they are serious without seeing a doctor. Symptoms of an internal head injury can include:

  • Amnesia and other memory problems
  • Changes in mental function, such as difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache 
  • Personality changes
  • Problems with sleeping 

Call 9-1-1 or seek immediate emergency care for: 

  • Abnormal behavior
  • Blood or clear fluid coming from the nose, ear, or mouth
  • Difficulty breathing, seeing, or speaking 
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Loss of consciousness, even if very brief
  • Seizures
  • Serious wounds
  • Severe headache 
  • Stiff neck
  • Sudden vision problems, such as double vision or decreased vision 
  • Unequal pupils
  • Weakness or inability to move a limb

Head Injury Treatment & First Aid

Minor injuries usually heal without medical intervention. However, if you or someone near you has a severe head injury, call 9-1-1 and follow these guidelines:

  • Do not move the person or pick up a child unless they are in immediate danger. Help him or her remain still.
  • Monitor heart rate and breathing. Use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), if necessary. Continue until medical help arrives.
  • Apply direct pressure to a wound unless you suspect a skull fracture. 
  • Do not attempt to rinse or clean the wound as this can make the bleeding worse. Instead, apply a sterile bandage.
  • Do not remove a helmet.
  • Do not remove any objects lodged in the head or wound.

Help prevent head injuries by wearing a properly sized helmet during sports and always using your seat belt. 

Our emergency team is ready to provide trusted, personal care around the clock. Come to our ER in the case of a head injury in the Bay Area.

Dignity Health offers emergency treatment for head injury in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.