What is a Craniotomy?

A craniotomy is a highly intricate surgical procedure in Singapore that fundamentally involves removing a section of the skull (cranium) to access a specific brain region temporarily. With the literal definition of “hole in the head”, a craniotomy is employed to treat various brain conditions and to obtain an accurate diagnosis. A craniotomy employed for diagnosis is also known as “diagnostic craniotomy”. 

A craniotomy procedure can be classified as: 

  • Location-based craniotomy: where the procedure is classified according to the specific region the surgery is executed on. Examples include frontal craniotomy, temporal craniotomy, and parietal craniotomy. 
  • Size-based craniotomy: occasionally, a craniotomy is described based on the size of the procedure. Examples include keyhole craniotomy and burr hole craniotomy, where the portion of skull removal is significantly smaller. 
  • Decompressive craniotomy: also known as craniectomy, a part of the skull is permanently removed to address excessive swelling and pressure in the brain. 
  • Awake craniotomy: performed while patients are conscious only for a part of the surgery. Patients are still administered sedation. 
  • Craniotomy only: the section of the skull that is removed is then placed back onto the brain upon completion of the procedure. 
A craniotomy involves removing a section of the skull to access a specific area of the brain.
A craniectomy is a specialised procedure that removes a bone flap to relieve pressure and swelling.

How does a Craniotomy work? 

A craniotomy is executed in several stages. Below is an outline of how a craniotomy procedure is performed: 

  • Diagnosis: a computed tomography scan (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain is first conducted to diagnose the condition accurately. In this phase, a craniotomy may also be performed to extract tissues in the brain and subsequently be analysed by a laboratory (also known as a biopsy). 
  • Incision and skull flap removal: after administration of anaesthesia, your neurosurgeon will make an incision, exposing the skull. A section of the skull, known as a "skull/bone flap," is then carefully removed using specialised tools. This access point allows the surgeon to visualise the issues causing symptom presentations. 
  • Treatment: upon assessing the condition of the brain, treatment is administered. Depending on your specific condition, the treatment approach varies. Types of interventions may include tumour resection, blood clot removal, clipping, or repairing an aneurysm.
  • Closure: after the necessary treatments are completed, the skull flap is repositioned and secured using plates, screws, or wires. The scalp incision is then closed using sutures or staples. A drain may temporarily be placed under the skin to remove excess blood or fluid from the surgical area.
Craniotomy post-operative stitching
Postoperative stitching will be used after a craniotomy procedure.

Benefits of Craniotomy

  • Improves the survival rate of patients (80.4%
  • Provides an opportunity to intervene and treat the progression of brain conditions promptly 
  • Subsequent improvement in quality of life
  • Manages and reduces the manifestation of symptoms

What conditions can a Craniotomy treat?

A craniotomy is a reliable treatment intervention for brain conditions such as: 

If you have any of the conditions listed above, make an appointment with Chou Neuroscience Clinic for customised treatment.

What results can I expect from a Craniotomy procedure in Singapore?

Fundamentally, a craniotomy allows your neurosurgeon to treat the root cause of the identified brain condition and prevent the progression of said condition. The recovery of a patient post-surgery is relative to the brain condition and the underlying cause of symptom presentation. If signs of complications are present, your neurosurgeon will appropriately manage these. 

A craniotomy is a reliable method that has relieved many patients with improved quality of life. Under regimented after-care and good lifestyle practices, patients have been empowered with improved physical and cognitive performance. 

Neurological exams such as electroencephalography are conducted post-operation to monitor neurological functions.

How many Craniotomy sessions are needed? 

A craniotomy is usually a one-off procedure; however, treatment does not end at surgery. You will be monitored post-operation to ensure the stability of vital signs is established, and improvement of neurological functions is achieved with a series of neurological exams

After your discharge from the hospital (3-7 days) post-surgery, you will be requested to visit our clinic within a week or two for a follow-up. You will also be asked to visit us for a routine check-up to monitor your general well-being.

You may also be provided physical therapy to regain loss of neurological function and mobility and to regain general autonomy of your health. 

Frequently asked questions  

What is life like after craniotomy? 

Recovering from the surgery itself will take anywhere from 6-8 weeks. Patients need to understand recovery also involves the full recovery of the brain itself. Your neurosurgeon will estimate the exact timeline for recovery. Having a positive outlook in life and dedication towards recovery is essential. This includes practising a good lifestyle and avoiding activities that increase risks.

What are the possible complications or risks of a craniotomy?

Reports of long-term impediments often repel patients; however, this is not caused by surgical interventions like craniotomy but rather by the development of your brain condition. The risk of complications from a craniotomy is generally minimal. However, some potential risks could include: 
-- Reactions to anaesthesia: some patients may experience allergic reactions to the sedatives and use of anaesthesia.  
-- Infection: antibiotics are typically administered to mitigate the risk of an infection.
-- Bleeding: there may be bleeding or blood clots during or after the procedure, which the surgical team will carefully monitor and manage.
-- Swelling and bruising: swelling and bruising around the surgical site are common but usually subsides over time.
-- Neurological complications: in rare cases, some patients may experience neurological issues, such as strokes, seizures, changes in sensation, or loss of mental functions. 

How long does it take to complete a craniotomy procedure?

A craniotomy can last anywhere from 3-7 hours. The duration varies on a case-by-case basis. 

Is a craniotomy a major surgery? 

Yes, a craniotomy is considered a major surgery. It is unsurprising for patients to seek experienced neurosurgeons to handle their cases to have the best outcomes. 

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Copyright © 2023 Chou Neuroscience Clinic. All Rights Reserved