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Craniotomy

Alternate Names

  • brain surgery
  • Brain hemorrhage

Definition

A craniotomy is a type of surgery done to open part of the skull, or cranium. This procedure is needed when a person has a condition or injury that affects the brain, its tissues, or its blood vessels.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

A craniotomy allows the surgeon to:
  • remove a lesion, such as a brain tumor
  • remove a blood clot, such as a chronic subdural hematoma
  • repair a leaking blood vessel, known as a cerebral aneurysm
  • remove an abnormal collection of blood vessels, known as arteriovenous malformation (AVM)
  • drain a pocket of pus, also called a brain abscess
  • repair skull fractures caused by a head injury
  • repair a tear in the membrane lining the brain
  • relieve increased intracranial pressure (excess pressure on the brain within the cranial cavity)

How is the procedure performed?

A craniotomy is performed under general anesthesia. This means the person is put to sleep with medication, feels no pain, and has no awareness of the procedure. The hair on all or part of the scalp is shaved. An incision is made in the scalp over the area of the suspected condition or disorder. A flap of the bone is cut away from the skull and set aside during the surgery. The disorder is located and treated. The bone flap is replaced, and the scalp is closed with sutures or clips.

Sources

Medical Surgical Nursing: 4th edition 1994

Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, Fauci et al, 1998

Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness&Surgery, H. Griffith, M.D, 2000

Griffith, H. Winter. Instructions for Patients. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders company, 1994

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