Surgery

It is critical to remove as much of the brain tumor as possible, while not damaging healthy tissue. Brain tumor surgery is most successful when it is performed by a neurosurgeon with a great deal of experience. As a patient, you have the right to seek out multiple opinions. This can help to answer questions that you have and confirm the surgical plan. Seeking a second (or even a third) opinion may also be encouraged by your surgeon or your insurance plan. Talk to your surgeon about your plans to seek out a second opinion, for recommendations on who to see and the time frame that is recommended to seek the opinion.

Make sure you are getting the best care possible by asking your surgeon these questions.

We encourage you to download and print these questions and bring them with you to your appointment. 

Surgery serves two important purposes:

  • Removes as much of the brain tumor as possible.
  • Provides a biopsy (sample) of the type of the cells for an accurate diagnosis.

Other benefits of surgery:

  • Relieves symptoms by reducing pressure on the brain.
  • Reduces the amount of tumor to be treated by radiation or chemotherapy.

The tumor size and location play a role in surgery options. The most common surgery for brain tumors is a craniotomy, which involves opening the skull. Besides a craniotomy, laser microsurgery, ultrasound aspiration and biopsy (stereotactic or open) are minimally invasive procedures that may be an option.

Prior to surgery, a brain tumor patient may receive steroids to reduce brain tissue swelling and medication to control seizures.

Possible Side Effects and Risks of Surgery

Brain surgery is a major surgical procedure, often requiring time in the ICU, inpatient hospital stay and sometimes time in a rehab facility. It can take a lot out of you. Your body will need to adjust.

The operation itself and the swelling of your brain after surgery may make the symptoms you are already experiencing worse or may cause new symptoms to occur. See what symptoms are associated with various areas of the brain and discuss any changes you see with your health care provider.

Below is a list of rare but possible side effects that can occur with surgery. The risks of surgery and possible side effects are different for each person. Use this list to talk to your doctor to understand if you are at risk for these and what can be done to prevent them or treat them if they occur.

Possible side effects:

  • Neurologic problems
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Swelling of the brain
  • CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) leak
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis of muscles
  • Wound (surgical incision) healing problems

These side effects can be minimized when procedures are performed by a qualified neurosurgeon.

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