A retrospective study of 661 adult patients with open scalp wounds attending the Accident and Emergency Department of Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, Scotland, was performed. Detailed information was recorded about history, nature of open wounds ('contused' or 'incised'), wound exploration and radiological findings. The commonest cause of injury was assault (40%), followed by falls (34%). Half of the patients had been drinking alcohol. The majority of scalp wounds were 'contused' (84%) resulting equally from assaults and falls; 'incised' wounds (16%) were more commonly due to assault. Although division of the occipitofrontalis aponeurosis was infrequent (18%), most (78%) of the skull fractures occurred in this group. Wound exploration detected nine fractures not evident on skull X-rays. To maximise fracture detection rate, careful wound exploration should be an important adjunct to skull radiography and, in particular, division of the occipitofrontalis aponeurosis should alert the casualty officer to the likelihood of a skull fracture.