Craniotomy is a surgical procedure that includes opening of the scull or cranium. After craniotomy a surgeon has access to brain and blood vessels in the skull and then additional procedures such as tumor removal or operation of aneurysms can be done. Patients are generally administered general anesthesia. Still they can be also awake and given local anesthesia in some cases. After the surgery the hole in the skull is closed with a titanium plate or some other type of fixation.
After being operated the patient is monitored in the recovery room for certain period of time. Vital signs are checked and he/ she is then transferred onto the intensive care unit. Nausea and headache are rather common after the surgery. The patients are administered special medications to reduce brain edema and to prevent seizures. Hospitalization lasts from three days up to two weeks.
As any other surgical procedure craniotomy carries certain risk of developing postoperative complications. Headaches are regularly present therefore they are not considered as complication of the surgery. They tend to linger up to several weeks after the surgery. Seizures can develop as a consequence of cutting inside the brain. Still one is prescribed anticonvulsants to prevent seizure from occurring.
Prior the discharge patient is given a list of what he/ she must do and what needs to be avoided by following the given rules majority of complications can be evaded.
In case of the unexpected symptoms and signs one should go to the doctor immediately. High body temperature is one complication. If it exceeds 101 F patient must report it to the doctor. Additionally patient has to report any case of redness, edema or even pain in the operated area. If one notices sleepiness, problems with stability or even skin changes he/ she has to report these to the doctor. The last three symptoms may be connected to prescribed anticonvulsants. Severe headaches, nausea, and prolonged or unstoppable sleepiness may point to increased intracranial pressure which is an urgent state and severe complication. Increased intracranial pressure may be induced by brain hemorrhage or formation of blood clots. Reactions to anesthesia are not so common. Leakage of cerebrospinal fluid can be surgically repaired.
Unlike previously mentioned complications which can be solved there are complications that may lead to permanent damage of the brain tissue. They include stroke, seizures for lifetime, damage to the nerves that can leads to irreversible paralysis of certain intracranial nerves and permanent loss of mental functions.