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Brain Aneurysm Surgery (Clipping): What to Expect at Home

Your Recovery

An aneurysm is a bulging, weak section of a blood vessel. Sometimes aneurysms put pressure on nerves. They can also bleed or break open (rupture). Surgery can fix an aneurysm in your brain. This can prevent strokes, bleeding, and brain damage.

During brain aneurysm surgery, the doctor made cuts (incisions) in your scalp and skull. Then the doctor placed a metal clip over the weak area of your brain blood vessel. Then the doctor used metal plates and clamps to put the piece of your skull back in place.

You will probably feel very tired for several weeks after this surgery. You may also have headaches or problems concentrating for 1 to 2 weeks. It can take 4 to 8 weeks to fully recover.

The incisions may be sore for about 5 days after surgery. Your scalp may swell with fluid. You may also have numbness and shooting pains near your wound. You may have swelling and bruising around your eyes. As your wound starts to heal, it may begin to itch. Medicines and ice packs can help with headaches, pain, swelling, and itching.

During surgery, the incisions on your head were closed with small metal plates or clamps. Some kinds of plates and clamps need to be removed 7 to 10 days after surgery. If your head was shaved, you may want to wear hats or scarves on your head until your hair grows back. Or it may not bother you.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?


  • Rest when you feel tired. It is common to want to sleep during the day. It is a good idea to plan to take a nap every day. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • You may need to take off from work at least 4 weeks, depending on your job. Ask your doctor when you might return to work.
  • Try not to lie flat when you rest or sleep. You can use a wedge pillow, or you can put a rolled towel or foam padding under your pillow. You can also raise the head of your bed by putting bricks or wooden blocks under the bed legs.
  • As you get up after lying down, bring your head up slowly. This can prevent headaches or dizziness.
  • You can wash your hair 2 to 3 days after your surgery. But do not soak your head or swim for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Do not dye or colour your hair for 4 weeks after your surgery.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid heavy lifting until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Do not drive for 2 to 3 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Ask your doctor when it is safe for you to travel by plane.


  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Follow your doctor's orders about how much fluid you should drink after surgery.
  • Do not drink alcohol until your doctor says it is okay.
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. Your doctor will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If you get medicines to prevent seizures, take them exactly as directed.

Incision care

  • If you have strips of tape on your incisions, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Keep the area clean and dry. Change the bandage every 2 days, or if it gets wet or soiled.
  • After your doctor says it is okay to shower or bathe, gently wash the surgery area with warm, soapy water and pat it dry.


  • Avoid risky activities, such as climbing a ladder, for 3 months after surgery.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for 3 months or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Do not play any rough or contact sports for 3 months or until your doctor says it is okay.


  • For the first 1 or 2 days, you can use ice to reduce pain, swelling, and itching. Put ice or a cold pack on your head for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

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 or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • It is hard to think, move, speak, or see.
  • Your body is jerking or shaking.
  • You get a severe headache.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • Your incision comes open.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
    • A fever.
  • You have any sudden vision changes.
  • You have new or worse headaches.
  • You fall and hit your head.
  • You are sleeping more than you are awake.
  • You have a headache and you throw up.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have a fever over 38°C.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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