brain scans

Recovery After a Craniotomy: What Should I Avoid?

Let’s state this right at the beginning: If your hobbies include rugby, roller derby, or bungee jumping, don’t expect to participate in these activities the day you return home from your craniotomy.

Seriously, though, when you have surgery on your skull—not to mention related procedures involving what’s inside your skull—recovery isn’t over once you leave the hospital. Depending on the reason for and results of your procedure, you may eventually return to full function (or, in some cases, even better than before your surgery), but you’ll be in a vulnerable position as you heal.

That’s why you need to take caution to avoid injury or complications that could prolong your recovery or, worse, require another surgery.

A Pathway to the Brain

Accessing the brain or related areas is not as easy as reaching most of the body’s other organs. A surgeon has to perform a craniotomy, a procedure that uses special tools to remove a piece of the skull, called a bone flap, after which the surgeon will also cut and fold back outer protective layers of thick connective tissue, called the dura. 

There are many reasons you might need a craniotomy, including brain tumors, nerve conditions, aneurysms, or seizures.

After the surgeon completes the procedure that follows the craniotomy, the bone flap is replaced and secured and the muscles and skin that were cut will be sutured. A bandage will be placed over your incision. The length of your stay in the hospital will vary based on your condition and the procedure.

You will receive thorough instructions about your recovery before you leave the hospital, but the following are some recommendations on what you should avoid—and not avoid—especially during your first days at home.

Don’t overdo it. 

  • It sounds obvious, but you just had major surgery! Listen to your body—if you’re tired, get some rest, and don’t push yourself too hard. 
  • When you do lie down, make sure your head is elevated with a pillow; don’t lie flat. 
  • When you get up, lift your head slowly.

Don’t worsen the wound.

  • The site of the surgery (meaning where the surgeon cut into your head) needs to heal. Make sure you keep it clean, dry, and safe from injury.
  • Keep the stitches dry for the first 48 hours. Ask your doctor when you can take your first shower. You can wash the incision, but don’t scrub it—and don’t submerge your head.
  • Don’t dye or color your hair until permitted. 
  • Although pain in the area is common, contact your doctor if your wound starts to swell or becomes increasingly painful.

Choose the right kinds of activities. 

  • Exercise is important for your overall health and recovery. Walking is recommended; try to gradually increase the time and distance you walk each day. You may need someone to walk with you at first.
  • No heavy lifting. Any kind of physical strain can set back your recovery.
  • Other activities to avoid until you receive permission from your doctor include driving and sexual activity. If you’re unsure about the risk of a particular activity, ask your doctor.

Be aware of what you’re putting in your body.

  • Maintain a healthy diet to reduce the risk of constipation, which can cause you to strain. Contact your doctor if you have trouble with your bowel movements. 
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol.

Manage your medicines.

  • If you receive any prescription medication, take them only as directed.
  • Make sure your doctor is aware of any medications you were taking prior to surgery, and you’ve been instructed when to start taking them again—especially blood thinners.
  • Report any nausea or complications that you think might be related to your medication.

Follow up and stay alert!

  • Don’t miss your follow-up appointments.
  • Remember that these are general suggestions, so make sure you follow the instructions you receive related to your specific surgery and recovery.
  • Brain surgery is safe, but it can have many complications. If something doesn’t feel right, contact your doctor immediately.

Make an Appointment with Dr. Woodall Today

Your brain surgery requires skill not just for your neurological procedure, but to perform the craniotomy that is required to access the area that needs treatment. By trusting in Dr. Woodall’s training and experience, you can feel confident and secure when you have a condition that requires this precise technique. Contact our office today.