Brain Surgery Ultimate Guide: How To Prepare & What To Expect

Thinking about brain surgery can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you don’t know how to prepare and what to expect about it. But once you understand what you should do before and after the surgery, you can relax and wait for your scheduled operation. Keep reading to learn more about brain surgery and how you can prepare and recover from it. 

What Is Brain Surgery?

Brain surgery refers to various medical procedures involving your brain, which is part of the central nervous system. The brain controls your ability to remember, think, move, and speak. But if abnormalities in the brain occur, these functions are affected or disrupted, requiring you to undergo brain surgery. 

One example of abnormality in the brain is the growth of tumors. You can learn more about brain tumors at and other similar medical websites to check whether you’re experiencing symptoms of such abnormality. 

Aside from removing brain tumors or some sections of your brain, surgeons also repair leaky blood vessels and other damaged parts of the brain. They do this via open brain surgery or minimally invasive brain surgery. The former involves cutting an incision in your brain, while the latter can be done by accessing your brain through a tiny cut in your leg, mouth, or nose. Of the two types of brain surgery, minimally invasive brain surgery helps you heal faster and poses fewer risks than open brain surgery. 

What Are The Types Of Brain Surgery?

There are also more specific types of brain surgery that you need to understand. Knowing their differences will allow you to weigh your options according to your preference. Although the doctor’s recommendation may still be the best, it wouldn’t hurt to suggest what you prefer. As such, here are the other types of brain surgery: 

Laser Ablation:

As its name suggests, laser ablation uses a laser probe, which is one of the techs making surgeries easier. Surgeons will use it to pass through a tiny hole in the skull to destroy epileptic tissue, radiation injury, or tumor. This is also the type of brain surgery that surgeons will perform if craniotomy isn’t a safe option for some conditions that may be too deep in the brain. 


An endoscope is an instrument surgeons use to perform brain surgery through your mouth or nose. It has a video camera on the end of a thin, lighted tube that surgeons insert and funnel surgical tools through. Doing this allows them to remove brain tumors without cutting into your skull. 

Endovascular Surgery:

Another way to perform brain surgery without cutting into your skull is by threading the catheter up to your brain. The thin, flexible tube or catheter is inserted into a blood vessel after surgeons cut a tiny incision in your groin. This brain surgery helps them repair aneurysms or remove thrombectomy, also known as blood clots. 

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS):

Besides neurological conditions, DBS is also suitable for tremors and Parkinson’s disease. Surgeons place electrodes in your brain, which is ideal for regulating abnormal brain activity. The electrodes will deliver electrical impulses to your brain via controlling a small device outside your brain. 


This is an open brain surgery wherein surgeons replace the piece of your skull after surgery since they need to remove a part of your skull to access your brain. A craniotomy is best for relieving pressure in your brain and removing epileptic tissue, arteriovenous malformation, blood clot, and a tumor. 

What Should You Do In the Days Before Surgery?

brain surgery
neurosurgeons perform surgery to excise a brain tumor in a modern surgical operating room

You’ll have a pre-assessment appointment one to two weeks before your brain surgery. It’s when you’ll meet the team members in charge of your surgery and treatment. This is vital since they’ll check whether you’re fit for the operation while prepping you for the surgery. In addition, you may also need to make the following preparations: 

1. Undergo Tests

As mentioned, the healthcare facility must check if you’re fit for surgery, for the anesthetics, and how well you can recover after it. They’ll know this by conducting different tests before your operation. It includes the following tests:

  • A computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan 
  • A chest x-ray to know if your lungs are healthy
  • An echocardiogram—a painless test—which uses sound waves to test your heart
  • Lung function tests to check your breathing
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) is to check the health of your heart while you’re exercising and resting
  • Blood tests to know how well your kidneys are working and check your general health

2. Personal Preparations

Of course, there are specific arrangements you need to plan to ensure that your discharge will go smoothly. These personal preparations are also essential to ensure that you can recover faster. As such, consider making the following arrangements days before you go into the operation room: 

  • Nominating a power of attorney, health care proxy, and completing a living will so that you can have health care directives ready, whatever the surgery’s outcome.
  •  Collecting books, magazines, or movies for entertainment while you recover
  • Adjust your kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom so they’re accessible and easy to use while healing.
  • Arranging return-to-work and time off work with your employers
  • Making eldercare or childcare arrangements
  • Getting ahead of household chores
  • Freezing or preparing ready-to-cook or heated meals for when you go home
  • Packing belongings like clothing, glasses, and medications for your hospital stay
  • Setting up post-surgery appointments and travel arrangements to and from the hospital

How Long Will The Brain Surgery Take?

The duration of different brain surgeries varies. The total surgery time will also depend on the severity and size of your brain tumor. If multiple brain areas are affected, expect a longer period since surgeons must perform more steps to ensure success. But generally, you’ll undergo three to four hours in a transsphenoidal approach, four to six hours for craniotomy, and two to three hours for a brain biopsy. 

What to Expect After Brain Surgery?

Before your family can see you, you may have to spend a few hours on recovery post-surgery. That way, doctors can be sure that you’re coming out of the surgery correctly and that everything’s going well. 

How Long Will It Take To Recover After Brain Surgery?

Generally, you’d need four to eight weeks to recover from brain surgery fully. During this time, you’ll be experiencing mild headaches and a sore on the initial incisions for about a week post-surgery. However, you may have to seek immediate, emergency medical care if you experience unusual or severe side effects after your surgery. 

What Should I Do After Brain Surgery?

After the surgery, you may need to stay in the healthcare facility for quite some time before being discharged. This includes being in the following rooms or units of the hospital: 

1. Recovery Room

The doctors will need to monitor your vital functions, so you need to be in the recovery room immediately after the surgery. When you wake up, your neurosurgeon and anesthesiologist will be there to check up on you. After which, they’ll be clearing you if you’re well enough so your loved ones can visit you for short periods. 

2. Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit

You may also be moved to the Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit (ICU) if it’s safer for you. Here, the support staff, nurses, and a team of doctors will take care of you. However, some hospitals may not require you to go into the ICU but to a particular neurosurgical step-down area. 

3. Inpatient Nursing Unit

Generally, you may need to be in the hospital for three to seven days post-surgery. Your care team will attend to you throughout this period until they tell you when you can depart from the hospital. 

The team will include the following members to ensure your fast recovery: 

  • Speech Therapists: If needed, they’ll be there to help regain your swallowing, communication, and cognitive skills. 
  • Social Workers: They’ll be the ones to help you and your loved ones adapt to changes in your financial circumstances, social life, career, and home. 
  • Registered Nurses (RNs): They’ll care for you throughout your stay.
  • Psychologists: You’ll need them to help you cope with the physical and emotional changes you may experience.
  • Occupational And Physical Therapists: You may also need to improve your physical functioning, regain balance, and strengthen your muscles with the help of the therapists. 
  • Case Managers: Nurses are also assigned to check on you throughout your transition from surgery to recovery to discharge. 

What Should I Do Upon Discharge?

When you’re discharged from the hospital, it doesn’t mean you’re fully healed. You may still feel some side effects of the surgery, such as numbness, burning, pain, or itchiness along your skin incision. You may even notice swelling under the skin near your incision, and you may feel worse with this small amount of fluid for some time every morning when you wake up. 

Moreover, you may experience headaches whenever you’re active, coughing, or breathing deeply. And you may not have the same amount of energy before the surgery. All of which would last for some months. Although these may be normal, you may need to do the following to help your body heal quicker: 

1. Self-care

You should take the pain relievers or medicines your doctor has prescribed. In addition, you should only take these medicines upon your doctor’s advice and follow instructions on how to take them. You should never self-medicate to avoid complications or prevent bleeding that some other medicines over the counter, like ibuprofen and aspirin, can cause. If you need to restart your previous medications before surgery, only do so after your surgeon gives a signal. 

Besides taking the prescribed medicines, you should also consider doing the following self-care activities: 

  • Take short periods of rest during the day; or take naps during the day and sleep more at night to get enough rest. 
  • Avoid driving yet until your doctor allows you to do so.
  • When bending, bend at the knees while keeping your back straight to avoid pressuring your head. This could happen if you try bending over from your waist. 
  • Don’t lift more than nine kg or 20 pounds for the first two months.
  • Support yourself when you’re on stairways by using the hand railings. 
  • Start with waking. 
  • It may take time to regain all your energy, so don’t rush doing things. Instead, slowly increase your activity.
  • Follow a particular diet your doctor tells you. If there’s none, eat healthy foods.

2. Wound Care

Here are the things you need to do specifically when caring for your wound created in the surgery:

  • Reduce swelling by sleeping with your head raised on several pillows.
  • Never sleep on an ice pack when reducing pain or swelling using ice wrapped in a towel on the incision. 
  • Avoid using hair products with harsh chemicals like straighteners, perms, bleach, or coloring for three to four weeks. 
  • Don’t apply any lotions or creams around or on your incision. 
  • Don’t wear a wig for the first three to four weeks, but you can wear a turban or a loose hat on your head. 
  • Regularly change the bandage, especially if it gets dirty or wet.
  • Always wear a shower cap when bathing or showering until your surgeon removes any staples or stitches. 
  • You can wash your incision but to it gently, then dry it quickly.
  • Always keep the incision dry and clean. 

3. Emotional Wellbeing

After the surgery, you may feel frightened or anxious. And this is natural, but you may need to talk about your worries with your friends and family. They may also think and feel the same, so talking about your feelings with them may help all of you feel more open and relaxed. That’s because you know you can ask for help from them whenever you feel anxious. 

Or you can share your worries with your doctor or nurses during your post-operative visits. Doing so will allow them to recommend what you should do to avoid being anxious. When they know your fears, they’ll also be able to reassure you that everything’s fine. 


If you find yourself needing to undergo brain surgery to repair damage or remove tumors in your brain, try not to be afraid. By seeking this guide, you can prepare before and after surgery to return to your daily activities. What matters most is to seek medical care whenever you feel unusual side effects after the surgery.

Medical Disclaimer: All the content available on the website is just for informational purposes. It’s not a substitute for any Professional advice. Don’t take it personally. As a medical student, I’m just trying to use my information through my content, and please keep in mind it’s not written by a professional doctor. Use the data just for educational purposes.

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