Going to the doctor, especially for issues regarding the brain or central nervous system, can already be a drag. When confronted with the reality that neurosurgery may be the best treatment option, patients can sometimes feel overwhelmed and fearful about the procedure. To be fair, brain surgery is no joke, but Healthpointe is here to guide your way.
In the spirit of alleviating some anxiety associated with a neurosurgical recommendation, here are responses to some of the most common questions we hear about neurosurgery as a whole.
- What is neurosurgery? Neurosurgery, otherwise known as brain surgery, is a general term for surgical procedures of the brain or around the brain. It is generally performed to correct issues such as tumors or aneurysms. These highly precise procedures are performed by neurosurgeons, who receive special training in order to safely complete these procedures. Brain surgery technology has advanced much in recent years, allowing neurosurgeons to perform minimally invasive brain surgery procedures with precision instruments. This, in turn, has reduced the number of brain surgery risks associated with the procedure.
- How does neurosurgery work? Well, it depends on the type of brain surgery — yes, there are multiple types! During a biopsy, a small piece of tissue is removed from the area with the use of a long, thin needle in order to help detect tumors or other abnormalities. A craniotomy involves cutting out a piece of the skull in order to expose the brain, generally used to drain fluids or resolve aneurisms. If the issue is in the area of the brain that controls motor function, speech, or vision, your doctor may recommend awake brain surgery, which is exactly what it sounds like. During this procedure, the patient is awake and numbed down with local anesthetic. The patient is kept awake so the doctors performing the procedure can monitor things like eye movement and memory in order to make sure those actions aren’t impacted during the surgery. This generally only happens in the most critical circumstances.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if your doctor recommends a neurosurgical procedure, don’t be afraid to ask for more detail about what exactly is going to happen to you.
- What are some of the risks associated with neurosurgery? Brain surgery is not without its dangers, which is why it’s generally only recommended for serious issues. Bleeding in the brain can occur, and while this can usually be resolved quickly when under medical observation, it can lead to complications. Temporary to long-term amnesia can occur if some nerve damage happens during the surgery. As with any surgery, there’s a risk of infection, which in this case can cause swelling in the brain. Seizures are also somewhat common following a brain surgery.
Your provider should communicate any risks associated with neurosurgery clearly with you. If you have questions about what may or may not happen as a result of your surgery, be sure to ask your provider for more information.
- What does brain surgery recovery look like? Recovery from neurosurgery can be a prolonged process taking several months or more. That said, the goal is to improve the patient’s quality of life, so some perseverance can make the wait worth it. Recovery time is also impacted by the patient’s all-around health prior to the procedure. At Healthpointe, our providers will create a recovery plan specific to your individual needs.
Generally, patients will be monitored in the hospital for several days following the procedure. During this say, the patient’s responses and blood flow are frequently tested. Lifestyle changes are also often recommended, and can involve things like less stress or a more active lifestyle. Sometimes, doctors will recommend physical therapy after brain surgery to help improve motor function. If there are behavioral changes after surgery, psychological therapy may come into play.
- After brain surgery, what is the likelihood that I will need to have another brain surgery? This ultimately depends on so many factors that it’s impossible to give one straight answer. First and foremost, communicate with your provider regarding your individual needs. The doctors working specifically on your case will be the best people to guide you through your long-term treatment. Neurosurgeons consider things like the patient’s need, age, overall health, willingness, and recovery from the first surgery when determining whether another surgery is necessary. That said, for things like brain tumors, where they sometimes reoccur, there is a chance
that another brain surgery will be recommended.