A craniotomy is a surgical procedure in which a portion of the skull is removed to access the brain. The following information is important for patients to know before undergoing a craniotomy:

  1. Purpose: Craniotomies are performed for a variety of reasons, including removal of brain tumours, relief of pressure on the brain, and repair of brain injuries.
  2. Pre-operative preparation: Patients may need to undergo medical tests and imaging studies, stop taking certain medications, and fast for a specified period of time before the surgery.
  3. Anaesthesia: A craniotomy is generally performed under general anaesthesia, which means the patient will be unconscious during the procedure. In very specialised circumstances, brain surgery can be performed with the patient awake.
  4. Procedure: The skull is opened using a saw or drill, and the brain is exposed. The specific procedure depends on the reason for the craniotomy. After the procedure is complete, the skull is closed using metal plates and screws or wire mesh.
  5. Recovery: After the surgery, patients typically need to stay in the hospital for a few days to a week. Pain, swelling, and headaches are common after the procedure, and pain medications are usually prescribed to manage these symptoms. Full recovery can take several months, and patients may need physical therapy and other rehabilitation to regain normal functioning.

Risks of craniotomy

A craniotomy is a surgical procedure in which a portion of the skull is temporarily removed to access the brain. As with any surgery, there are risks associated with a craniotomy, including infection, bleeding, and complications from anaesthesia. Additionally, patients may experience changes in cognitive function, motor abilities, and sensory perception, although these effects are usually temporary.

  1. Bleeding: Craniotomy involves cutting through the skull, which can result in bleeding.
  2. Infection: As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection.
  3. Brain swelling: The brain may swell after a craniotomy, which can lead to increased pressure inside the skull.
  4. Nerve damage: The nerves that control movement and sensation may be damaged during a craniotomy.
  5. Seizures: Seizures may occur after a craniotomy, although this is rare.
  6. Stroke: There is a small risk of stroke during or after a craniotomy.
  7. CSF leak: The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may leak through the skin, nose, or ear after a craniotomy, which can lead to meningitis.
  8. Anaesthesia risks: As with any procedure requiring anaesthesia, there are risks associated with the use of anaesthesia, including allergic reactions, breathing problems, and heart problems.
  9. Long-term effects: In some cases, there may be long-term effects from a craniotomy, such as changes in cognitive function, memory problems, or changes in personality.

It’s important for patients to discuss the potential risks and benefits of a craniotomy with their healthcare team to make an informed decision about their treatment. Regular follow-up care is also important to monitor the patient’s progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.