Craniotomy (brain surgery)

What is a craniotomy?

A craniotomy is a type of brain surgery where an opening is made in the skull to enable access to the brain. There are a number of different conditions and treatments where a craniotomy may be required, including the removal of a brain tumour. A craniotomy may also be performed to remove a blood clot,  repair of leaking blood vessel to control a brain haemorrhage, drainage of a brain abscess,  relieving pressure inside the skull, or to take a tissue biopsy. Craniotomy can also be used for the implantation of deep brain stimulators for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy or cerebellar tremor.

What is involved in craniotomy or brain surgery?

A craniotomy is usually performed using a general anaesthetic but can be also done with the patient awake (“wide-awake craniotomy”) using a local anaesthetic. In most cases a CT or MRI scan will provide the surgeon with a picture of the brain so that the precise location of the surgery can be determined.

During the operation a piece of skull is carefully removed in order to access the relevant area for treatment. The amount of skull that is removed depends on the nature of the condition being treated. At the end of the operation the bone flap is usually held back in place using titanium plates and screws or another form of fixation.

Depending on the reason for the craniotomy, a hospital stay will be required that could range from a few days to a few weeks.

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