A craniotomy is a type of brain surgery where an opening is made in the skull to enable access to the brain. It’s a delicate procedure that needs to be carried out by a world-class expert. It can be used to treat various conditions, such as the removal of a brain tumour or a blood clot, or to relieve pressure inside the skull.
Having any type of surgery is always a time of worry, but if you have been told you need this procedure you will probably be feeling especially anxious. We’re here to help you.
You may be scared of undergoing such a delicate procedure but your surgeon will not suggest it unless they decide it really is the best option for you.
Several conditions or treatments can be helped by this surgery including:
The operation is usually performed using a general anaesthetic so you are asleep throughout. We understand that you will be anxious about having this type of surgery but we will support you at every step and discuss all the options available to you. Our highly experienced consultants will explain all the medical issues and discuss what they are proposing to do to help you, guiding you every step of the way.
We pride ourselves on our clinical excellence, you'll be looked after by an experienced multi-disciplinary care team.
Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the consultant you want to see, and when you want. They'll be with you every step of the way.
All of our consultants are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well-equipped hospitals.
Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-specialty surgeries. Many of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.
You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.
For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.
Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that having surgery can often be a time of anxiety and worry but our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, holding your hand, every step of the way.
In most cases a pre-operation CT (computed topography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan will give your surgeon 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.
Your head will be held firmly by a special device with three pins that are placed into the outer surface of the skull. A neuronavigation system (similar to a satellite navigation system) will then be used together with your pre-operative scan to precisely locate the site the surgeon needs to access, which can be marked on the scalp.
The amount of skull being 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. The skin is closed with staples, the wound is dressed and the head will often be bandaged.
A craniotomy is usually performed using a general anaesthetic so you will be asleep throughout, but it can be also done with the patient awake using a local anaesthetic. Your consultant will discuss this option with you beforehand and will recommend which is the best surgical approach for you.
Depending on the reason for the craniotomy, your stay in hospital stay will vary from a few days to a few weeks. Most people will stay in hospital for 5-7 days after an open procedure.
After this, you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you’re ready to go home.
Your friends and family will be able to visit pretty much anytime you want – we have flexible visiting hours.
Having an operation on the head is not particularly painful, but you will be given some tablets or injections for headaches and drugs to help you with nausea.
You will often be given steroids to prevent swelling (in a slowly reducing dose) and anti-epileptic drugs to prevent fits in the early post-operative period.
We will provide you with a supply of all the medicines your consultant feels you need to take home with you after you've left hospital, up to 14 days. This may be at an additional cost to some patients.
Your catheter and head bandage are usually removed the following day and your drip removed as soon as you are drinking enough water.
You will be discharged as soon as your condition is stable and many patients go straight home as soon as they are feeling comfortable.
When we discharge you we'll talk to you about whether your stitches and dressings need to be removed and we’ll make an appointment to see your consultant again.
You will probably be able to return to your job within a week or two, although you should not do any heavy lifting at home or work for at least six weeks. We'll talk to you about this.
You should walk about as much as possible after a few hours rest.
Once you’re ready to be discharged, you’ll need to arrange a taxi, friend or family member to take you home as you won’t be able to drive. You should also ask them if they can run some light errands such as shopping for you as you won’t be feeling up for it.
Even once you’ve left hospital, we’re still here for you. Your consultant is likely to want to see you after your operation.
On rare occasions, complications following craniotomy surgery can occur. Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns about your recovery, we're ready to help.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.