Your doctor made an incision in your scalp and then drilled a small hole or removed a piece of your skull bone. Surgery was done to:
Correct a problem with a blood vessel, or
Remove a tumor or other abnormality along the surface of the brain or in the brain tissue itself
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 will probably notice itchiness, pain, burning, and numbness along your surgical incision. You may hear a clicking sound where the bone is slowly re-attaching. Complete healing of the bone may take 6 to 12 months.
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.
You will probably have a small amount of fluid underneath the skin near your incision. The swelling may be worse in the morning when you wake up.
Take only the pain relievers your doctor or nurse recommends. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin), and some other drugs you may buy at the store may cause bleeding.
You can eat your normal diet, unless your doctor or nurse gives you a special diet.
Slowly increase your activity. Start out with walking. It may take up to 3 weeks to get all of your energy back.
Use hand railings when you are on stairways.
Do not lift more than 20 pounds for the first 2 months.
Try not to bend over from your waist. It puts pressure on your head. Bend with your knees instead.
Ask your doctor when you may begin driving. You may have sexual activity, but take it easy when you first get home.
Get enough rest. Sleep more at night, and take naps during the day. Also, take short rest periods during the day.
Keep the incision clean and dry.
Wear a shower cap when you shower or bathe until your surgeon takes out any stitches or staples.
Afterward, gently wash your incision, rinse well, and pat dry.
Always change the bandage if it gets wet or dirty.
You may wear a loose hat or turban on your head if you like. 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 where you had your surgery to help reduce swelling or pain. Never sleep on an ice pack.
Sleep with your head raised on several pillows. This will also help reduce swelling.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if you have:
Fever of 101 °F or chills
Redness, swelling, discharge, pain, or bleeding from the incision or the incision comes open
Headache that does not go away and is not relieved by medicines the doctor gave you
Vision changes (double vision, blind spots in your vision)
Problems thinking straight, confusion, or more sleepiness than usual
Weakness in your arms or legs that you did not have before
New problems walking or keeping your balance
A hard time waking up
Fluid or blood dripping into your throat
New or worsening problem speaking
Shortness of breath, chest pain, or are coughing up more mucus
Swelling around your wound or underneath your scalp that does not go away within 2 weeks or is getting worse
Patterson JT, Hanbali F, Franklin RL, Nauta HJW. Neurosurgey. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 72.
Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.