Brain surgery - discharge

Alternative Names

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

When You're in the Hospital

You had surgery on your brain. During surgery, your doctor made a surgical cut (incision) in 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 surgery it was likely put back in place and attached with small metal plates.

Surgery was done for one of the following reasons:

You have spent some time in the intensive care unit 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 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 doctor may have prescribed medicines for you to take at home. These may include antibiotics and medicines to prevent seizures. Ask your doctor 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 (Motrin), and some other medicines you may buy at the store may cause bleeding.

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 of your energy back.

Ask your provider when you may 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

Call your doctor if you have:


Ortega-Barnett J, Mohanty A, Desai SK, Patterson JT. Neurosurgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 67.

Sawyer MM. Postanesthetic care. In: Duke JC, Keech BM, eds. Anesthesia Secrets. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 28.

Review Date: 7/4/2016
Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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