by Patricia Griffin Kellicker, BSN
A craniotomy is a surgery done on the head. The surgeon cuts through the skull to reach the brain. There are different types of craniotomies, including:
Reasons for Procedure
The success of this surgery depends on the reason it is being done. The most common reasons for a craniotomy include:
Smoking may increase the risk of complications.
Possible Complications TOP
If you are planning to have a craniotomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications which may include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
If your surgery is planned, your doctor will review what will happen and what to expect afterwards. At your appointment before your surgery, your doctor may:
Be sure to ask your doctor any questions that you have, such as:
Other things to remember:
General anesthesia is used for most craniotomies. General anesthesia will block any pain and keep you asleep during the surgery. It is given through an IV in your hand or arm.
If you have an awake craniotomy, you will be given general anesthesia. You will be awake for part of the surgery.
If you have stereotaxy surgery, you may be given local anesthesia. This blocks just the area where surgery will happen.
Description of Procedure
After you are asleep and can no longer feel pain, a breathing tube will be placed. Your head will be shaved and your skin will be washed with an antiseptic. The surgeon will cut into part of your scalp. Next, part of your skull will be removed and your brain covering will be opened. Depending on the reason for your surgery, several things may happen: a tumor may be removed, a part of your brain tissue may be taken, a tube may be placed, or repairs to your brain or its vessels may be done. The brain opening will then be sewn back into place and your skull replaced. Staples or stitches will be used to close the incision. A drain may be inserted to remove blood and fluid for the first few days after surgery. A dressing will be wrapped around your head.
Immediately After Procedure
After your surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room to be monitored. Your mental status and vital signs will be checked often. After the recovery room, you may spend some time in the intensive care unit (ICU) or a step-down unit before being moved to a hospital room. This will depend on the reason for your surgery.
How Long Will It Take?
Several hours, depending on the type and reason for surgery
How Much Will It Hurt?
During surgery, you will feel no pain. After surgery, you will be given medicine to manage any pain.
Average Hospital Stay
3-7 days (Your doctor may keep you longer if complications occur.)
At the Hospital
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor TOP
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Brain Tumor Association
National Brain Tumor Society
Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada
Canadian Cancer Society
The essential guide to brain tumors. National Brain Tumor Society website. Available at: http://www.braintu... . Accessed February 6, 2013.
Guide to the care of the patient with craniotomy post-brain tumor resection. American Association of Neurological Nurses website. Available at: https://www.aann.org/pdf/cpg/aanncraniotomy.pdf . Accessed February 6, 2013.
Professional Guide to Diseases . 9th ed. Ambler, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009.
White-Guthro M. Craniotomy. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated February 24, 2012. Accessed February 6, 2013.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 2/6/2013