A craniotomy removes part of the skull to access the brain for surgery.
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The most common reasons for a craniotomy are:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
The doctor may give:
An incision will be made in the scalp. Part of the skull will be removed. The tissue that covers the brain will be opened. The procedure that is done next depends on the reason for the craniotomy. The tissue that covers the brain will be closed and stitched. The skull piece will be returned to its spot. Staples or stitches will be used to close the area. A bandage will be wrapped around the head.
It will take several hours. It depends on the reason for the surgery.
Pain and swelling are common in the first week. Medicine and home care help.
The usual length of stay is 3 to 7 days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
It can take a month or more to fully heal. Physical activity will be limited during this time. You will need to ask for help with daily activities and delay return to work.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
Call for medical help right away if you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Brain Tumor Association
National Brain Tumor Society
Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada
Canadian Cancer Society
Craniotomy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/craniotomy. Accessed July 20, 2021.
Lukas RV, Mrugala MM. Pivotal therapeutic trials for infiltrating gliomas and how they affect clinical practice. Neurooncol Pract . 2017 Dec;4(4):209-219. doi: 10.1093/nop/npw016.
Young JS, Chmura SJ, et al. Management of glioblastoma in elderly patients. J Neurol Sci. 2017;380:250-255.
Your surgery guide: Information about your craniotomy or biopsy for a brain tumor. Cedars Sinai Medical Center website. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/programs/neurology-neurosurgery/clinical/brain-tumor/surgery-guide.html. Accessed July 19, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD