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Brain surgery - discharge

Craniotomy - discharge; Neurosurgery - discharge; Craniectomy - discharge; Stereotactic craniotomy - discharge; Stereotactic brain biopsy - discharge; Endoscopic craniotomy - discharge

You had surgery on your brain. During surgery, your surgeon made a surgical cut (incision) on your scalp. A small hole was then drilled into your skull bone, or a piece of your skull bone was removed. This was done so that the surgeon could operate on your brain. If a piece of skull bone was removed at the end of the surgery, it was likely put back in place and attached with small metal plates and screws.

After you go home, follow your health care provider's instructions on how to care for yourself. Use the information below as a reminder.

I Would Like to Learn About:

When You're in the Hospital

Surgery was done for one of the following reasons:

You may have spent some time in the intensive care unit (ICU) and some more time in a regular hospital room. You may be taking new medicines.

What to Expect at Home

You'll probably notice itchiness, pain, burning, and numbness along your skin incision. You may hear a clicking sound where the bone is slowly reattaching. Complete healing of the bone may take 6 to 12 months.

You may have a small amount of fluid under the skin near your incision. The swelling may be worse in the morning when you wake up.

You may have headaches. You may notice this more with deep breathing, coughing, or being active. You may have less energy when you get home. This may last for several months.

Your surgeon may have prescribed medicines for you to take at home. These may include antibiotics and medicines to prevent seizures. Ask your surgeon how long you should expect to take these medicines. Follow instructions on how to take these medicines.

If you had a brain aneurysm, you may also have other symptoms or problems.


Take only the pain relievers your provider recommends. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and some other medicines you may buy at the store may cause bleeding. If you were on blood thinners previously, do not restart them without getting the okay from your surgeon.

Eat the foods you normally do unless your provider tells you to follow a special diet.

Slowly increase your activity. It will take time to get all your energy back.

Ask your provider when you can begin driving and return to having sex.

Get enough rest. Sleep more at night and take naps during the day. Also, take short rest periods during the day.

Wound Care

Keep the incision clean and dry:

You may wear a loose hat or turban on your head. Do not use a wig for 3 to 4 weeks.

Do not put any creams or lotions on or around your incision. Do not use hair products with harsh chemicals (coloring, bleach, perms, or straighteners) for 3 to 4 weeks.

You may place ice wrapped in a towel on the incision to help reduce swelling or pain. Never sleep on an ice pack.

Sleep with your head raised on several pillows. This helps reduce swelling.

When to Call the Doctor

Contact your provider if you have:

Related Information

Brain surgery
Brain aneurysm repair
Subdural hematoma
Brain tumor - children
Metastatic brain tumor
Acoustic neuroma
Cerebral arteriovenous malformation
Brain abscess
Brain tumor - primary - adults
Epilepsy in children - discharge
Communicating with someone with aphasia
Communicating with someone with dysarthria
Caring for muscle spasticity or spasms
Swallowing problems
Brain aneurysm repair - discharge
Epilepsy or seizures - discharge
Stroke - discharge
Epilepsy in adults - what to ask your doctor
Epilepsy in children - what to ask your doctor


Abts D. Post-anesthetic care. In: Keech BM, Laterza RD, eds. Anesthesia Secrets. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 34.

Jackson CM, Weingart JD, Brem H. Basic principles of cranial surgery for brain tumors. In: Winn HR, ed. Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 151.

Patterson JT. Neurosurgery. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 68.


Review Date: 7/17/2022  

Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, FRCS (C), FACS, Department of Surgery, Johnson City Medical Center, TN; Department of Surgery St-Alexius Medical Center, Bismarck, ND; Department of Neurosurgery Fort Sanders Medical Center, Knoxville, TN, Department of Neurosurgery UPMC Williamsport PA, Department of Maxillofacial Surgery at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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