The Many Complications One May Encounter In Craniotomy

Craniotomy surgery is a life changing procedure in which a flap in the bone is removed from your skull to have access to your brain. This critical procedure is done if you are suffering from serious injuries to your head like brain lesions or brain injuries. It can also be done for treatment of many neurological complications such as Parkinsonís, epilepsy and many more. Here are some of the complications that could occur to you during/after craniotomy.


Usually, infections occur in the area of the head known as the scalp. This will then need to be dressed or removed with the use of a stitch and/or antibiotics. Deeper infection may go to your bones, which may need to be removed and a plastic plate inserted after about six months. Deeper types of infection may affect the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) around the brain, which is called meningitis.


Postoperative bleeding is the most dangerous problem that can happen to you after cranial surgery. When an operation is completed, there is no bleeding and it is then safe to close. However, delayed bleeding can also occur, most often within the first twenty four hours after surgery. This may occur if your blood pressure becomes too high, if you are taking up blood thinning drugs (which should have been stopped preoperatively), if you get agitated for no obvious reason.

Postoperative bleeding can be an emergency if you ever become unconscious or develop a deficit such as arm and leg weakness. This will usually require an urgent trip back to theatre to prevent a permanent deficit (or stroke).

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

DVT means a blood clot developing in the leg. You will be able to notice a painful swelling of the calf but a DVT may not be noticed. This clot may dislodge and travel to your lungs and heart to block the circulation, which is known as a pulmonary embolus (PE). An embolus can be fatal and usually happens about 1-2 weeks after having craniotomy. Increased risks for DVT and PE are bed rest, prolonged surgery, obesity, cancer, past DVT, paralyzed leg/s and heart failure.

To prevent DVT, you should get out of bed as soon as possible, usually the day after surgery. Before this, you need to wriggle your toes and move the legs around in bed as soon as you wake from the anesthetic. Prior to surgery, you are going to get elastic types of stockings. While in surgery you will have leg pumps to improve your blood circulation. After surgery, blood thinning injections are commenced.


Death on the operating table is very rare. Death can occur with any surgery and usually occurs after the operation. The most common reasons are myocardial infarct or heart attack due to the stress of the surgery, a rare reaction to a drug AKA anaphylaxis or pulmonary embolus. It is important to remember the risks of death or paralysis (stroke) to yourself if you are having an operation, no matter how minor the procedure.