When you are preparing for neurosurgery, consider the following steps:
- Speak with your doctor about any anxieties or worries you have about the surgery. Neurosurgery can be a frightening prospect, and having all of your questions answered can help ease your concerns.
- If your neurosurgeon requires it, you may need to undergo additional screenings with your primary care physician or a cardiologist to make sure you are healthy enough for surgery.
- Let your doctor know if you are taking any medications, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements such as aspirin. You will need to stop taking any medications that thin the blood at least seven days before surgery, and stop taking other medicines as well.
Immediately before your procedure, your care team will let you know what to do. You may need to stop eating and drinking the day before the surgery. Depending on the type of surgery, your procedure may take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
Recovery from neurosurgery varies from patient to patient. Factors that can affect recovery include age and overall health, as well as the type of surgery. Some neurological operations require only a few days in the hospital to recover; others may require weeks or months of intensive care and rehabilitation.
Brain tissue does not have pain receptors, and the scalp also has fewer nerve endings than other parts of the body. For these reasons, recovering from brain surgery can actually be less painful than other procedures. However, brain surgery is still a major procedure, and recovery requires rest and time.
In some cases, symptoms may be worse immediately following surgery and then improve over time. Oncological neurosurgery recovery can be complicated by radiation, chemotherapy, and other treatments, and some types of brain surgery such as hemispherectomy and lobectomy may cause changes in your mental status. Neurosurgery can also lead to emotional reactions, including anxiety and depression, which may require additional treatment.
Some common symptoms of neurosurgery recovery include:
- Memory loss
- Depression, anxiety, and other emotional changes
- Speech changes or aphasia (difficulty remembering or recognizing words)
- Loss of balance or motor control
- Personality shifts
Your doctor may prescribe additional medications to manage any symptoms you have. If you notice signs of infection, blurred vision, seizures, severe headaches, sudden weakness in the face, arms, or hands, and persistent vomiting, contact your doctor immediately.
Even if only a short hospital stay is required, it will take some time to return to everyday activities. Many neurological conditions require intensive rehabilitation to recover, both physically and mentally.
Here are some steps you can take to speed up your recovery from brain surgery:
- Keep your wound/incision site clean, as directed by your doctor.
- From the day after surgery and for the next two weeks, avoid exerting yourself. Don’t lift anything heavier than a few pounds.
- Avoid activities that change the pressure in your brain, such as standing up quickly, bending over, straining, or significant changes in elevation (such as through flying in an airplane).
- If you are taking narcotics, do not drive or operate heavy machinery.
- Use common sense regarding returning to your activities; if you experience pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, or other symptoms, ease off your activities, and contact your physician.
- Once your sutures or staples have been removed, begin increasing your activity level, as recommended by your physician. Gentle exercise, such as walking, can help your recovery and reduce symptoms.
Your doctor can refer you to appropriate therapy to manage depression, anxiety, or physical symptoms such as weakness. Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy can all aid in the recovery process as well.
When to see a neurosurgeon
Neurosurgeons deal with all conditions related to the brain. They also treat conditions associated with the nervous system, such as chronic pain, nerve injuries, strokes, and spinal injuries. They treat conditions such as:
- Spinal trauma
- Head trauma
- Cervical spine disorders
- Chronic pain
- Pituitary tumors
- Brain and spinal tumors
- Back pain
Your primary care physician will refer you to a neurosurgeon if your care requires the oversight of a specialist. Dignity Health performs advanced neurosurgeries and procedures throughout the country. Use our Find a Doctor tool to connect with a care provider in your area.