Your brain is precious, which is why nature has gone to great lengths to ensure it is protected inside your skull. Sometimes, however, neurosurgeons need to have direct access to your brain in order to improve your health. In a procedure called a craniotomy, surgeons cut out a section of bone in the skull in order to create an opening. Once this opening is created, they can operate on the tissue inside your head.
In a craniotomy, the section of skull that was removed is put back after the operation. During a different procedure, called a craniectomy, the skull is not reattached.
Some surgeries require only a keyhole-sized incision through the skull. This kind of craniotomy is considered a less invasive way to remove some tumors.
Goal of a Craniotomy
Many procedures might require a craniotomy, so the goal can vary. However, these procedures usually include treatment for brain infections, blood clots, tumors, swelling, skull fractures, brain aneurysms, or arteriovenous malformations, among others. Smaller incisions might be used to drain fluid, insert a deep brain stimulator or to perform a needle biopsy. A craniotomy may be performed on any section of the brain.
How a Craniotomy Is Performed
Our care team will prepare you for your craniotomy and invite you to ask questions. Once in the operating room, you will be placed under anesthesia and monitored by an anesthesiologist. When the team is ready, your surgeon will make a small incision in your head near the site in question. The area is then cleaned for your safety and surgical drapes are placed around your head. Unlike popular belief, your doctor typically does not shave your hair.
Your surgeon uses a small drill to make a hole in your head down to the dura, which is the tissue covering the brain. Using a different drill designed for this type of surgery, your surgeon will carefully cut and remove a disc of bone to expose the dura at the surgery site. The surgeon gently pulls back the dura in order to operate directly on the brain tissue, or as is the case in aneurysm surgery, to operate on the blood vessels in the space between the brain folds.
After the surgeon has completed the surgery on the brain, he or she will put the dura back in place and sew it up using sutures (surgical stitches). The bone is reattached and secured with metal plates and screws.
Recovery Timeline for a Craniotomy
It is important to take care of yourself and your own health following your craniotomy. Everyone’s recovery is specific to that individual, but you can expect to recover four to eight weeks after your procedure. It is normal to experience pain at the site of your surgery for about five days after the procedure. Numbness, shooting pain and itchiness at the site and swelling or bruising around the eyes is common. You may have to return to the hospital to have stitches removed seven to ten days after surgery.
You will probably experience fatigue in the days following your craniotomy. Allow yourself to take daily naps. Try to keep your head elevated when you lie down and avoid moving your head up too quickly to avoid dizziness and headaches. Follow your surgeon’s advice about activity, diet and medications to take during your recovery.
Why Choose Neurosurgeons of New Jersey
Neurosurgeons of New Jersey is a group of dedicated physicians employing expert knowledge and cutting-edge technology to provide extraordinary patient care. We are affiliated with the Neurological Institute of New York, the first organization dedicated solely to neurological disease and a fixture on the East Coast for 100 years.
We know that surgery is a stressful, even frightening experience for patients and their families. Our surgeons and care teams work to provide an environment that is responsive to patient needs and upholds high standards of practice.