Craniotomy: Before Your Surgery

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What is a craniotomy?

A craniotomy is surgery to open your skull to fix a problem in your brain. It can be done for many reasons. For example, you may need a craniotomy if your brain or blood vessels are damaged. Or you may need one if you have a tumour or an infection in your brain.

The doctor uses special tools to make cuts (incisions) through your scalp and skull. The doctor then looks at the inside of your skull or fixes the problem. He or she uses small plates and clamps to put the piece of your skull back in place.

You may get medicine so you will be asleep during the surgery. Or you may be awake, but you will not feel pain. Sometimes a person must be awake during surgery so the doctor can test how well the brain is working.

The surgery can last from 30 minutes to 12 hours. Afterward, you may stay in the hospital for 3 to 10 days. Depending on why you had the surgery, you may need 4 to 8 weeks to fully recover. Your recovery may take longer if you have weak areas of your body or have problems talking or seeing. You may need up to 6 months to recover from some brain injuries or infections. You may not recover completely from some types of brain injuries.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery can take 30 minutes to 12 hours.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.
  • You may need to go to a short-term rehabilitation centre after you leave the hospital. This can help you learn to do the tasks you need to do after you go home.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter B928 in the search box to learn more about "Craniotomy: Before Your Surgery".

Current as of: March 20, 2017