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A craniotomy is a surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia by a neurosurgeon in which the surgeon removes a portion of the skull to access the portion of the brain needed.

Craniotomies can be performed for a number of reasons including:

  • biopsy, or take a small piece of, a brain tumor or lesion
  • drain or remove an abscess (infection)
  • repair an arteriovenous malformation(AVM), which is a tangle of blood vessels preventing normal blood flow
  • repair an aneurysm
  • remove a blood clot or reduce pressure after traumatic brain injury

A craniectomy is a similar procedure, but the skull flap is not immediately replaced after the brain is operated upon. Sometimes the surgeon needs to allow the brain to swell helping to reduce intracranial pressure. Once ICP resolves, the patient will be taken back to surgery to affix the bone flap.

After the Surgery

You will have a gauze dressing on your head. To find out if you are having an large amount of swelling, you will be asked frequently to squeeze the hand of the nurse and wiggle your toes. The nurse will be checking your pupils in your eyes to see if they get smaller when a flashlight is shined into your eyes. Also the nurse will ask you questions to see if you are aware of who you are and where you are and what is the month and year. Sometimes the questions may include who is the president of the United States or what is your address. You will go to a special care unit after surgery.