Craniotomy for Tumors
Brain Tumor Surgery
Brain cancer involves the presence of malignant cells within the brain tissue. This can originate in the brain, known as primary tumors, or spread from other areas of the body, known as secondary tumors. Tumors within the brain may develop from many different types of brain tissue, and are often named after their original location. Some of the most common types of brain tumors include gliomas, pituitary adenomas and vestibular schwannomas.
Patients with brain cancer often experience weakness, difficulty walking, seizures and headaches. These symptoms can vary from patient to patient and may also include nausea, blurry vision, memory changes or personality changes. Since these symptoms can be characteristic of many different medical conditions, it is important for patients to seek medical attention, especially if they are at a higher risk of developing brain cancer.
If left untreated, brain cancer can lead to life-threatening complications such as an obstructed flow of cerebrospinal fluid, a cerebral hernia or a stroke. These complications can cause permanent brain damage or even death. It is important for patients with brain cancer to seek prompt and thorough treatment to prevent these complications from occurring.
Diagnosing a Malignant Brain Tumor
If Dr. Lipani suspects brain cancer, he may perform a series of tests to confirm a diagnosis. After evaluating your medical history and performing a physical examination, a CT scan or MRI may be performed to produce internal images of the brain. A biopsy may also be performed to remove a small tissue sample for microscopic evaluation.
Surgery is usually the first and most effective approach for the treatment of brain tumors. A craniotomy is a surgical procedure that involves opening up the skull in order to remove the tumor. An incision is first made in the scalp, then a piece of bone known as a bone flap is removed to access the affected area. Dr. Lipani will remove as much of the tumor as possible without affecting nearby healthy tissue. Depending on the location of the tumor, complete removal may be difficult and require additional treatments. Once the tumor has been sufficiently removed, the skull opening will be closed by replacing and reattaching the bone flap and the scalp incision is sutured.
These procedures are performed under general anesthesia in a hospital setting, and require shaving the scalp in the area where the incision is made. In many cases, patients remain awake during surgery and will be asked to move their leg, repeat the alphabet or tell a story to ensure that brain functioning remains intact during the procedure.
Recovery from a Craniotomy
After a craniotomy procedure, patients will likely experience a headache for a few days, and may feel tired or weak. Most patients will need to spend a few nights in the hospital, but specific recovery times may vary between individuals. Dr. Lipani will prescribe pain medication in order to relieve symptoms and promote efficient healing.
Many patients will need to undergo additional treatments to ensure that all traces of cancer have been thoroughly removed from the brain. This may include radiation therapy, which uses high energy X-rays or gamma rays to destroy tumor cells, or chemotherapy, which uses drugs administered intravenously to kill cancer cells. Other treatments often used for brain tumors include hyperthermia, immunotherapy and steroids. Dr. Lipani will develop a customized treatment plan for you based on your individual condition.
Risks of a Craniotomy
Surgery to treat a brain tumor is a complex procedure that is not without certain risks and complications. As with any type of surgery, there is a risk of infection and bleeding. After surgery, the brain may swell or an accumulation of fluid may develop that can lead to brain damage and other serious complications. Surgery may also produce some damage in the normal tissue of the brain, which can cause problems with the patient’s ability to think, see or speak.
Dr. Lipani will discuss these risks with you prior to the craniotomy and take precautions to prevent any complications from occurring while performing this procedure.