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What patients need to know after neurosurgery?

Whether it’s a big procedure or a minimally invasive procedure, it is important for the patients to know and understand what to expect after neurosurgery. The post-operative management of neurosurgical patients is directed towards the prevention, prompt detection, and management of surgical complications, and other factors that put the brain or spinal cord at risk. The majority of patients do not require complex monitoring or management beyond the first 12 hours after elective surgery.

After the operation, following can be expected:

  • There will be some pain around the incision made. Pain, nausea, and vomiting occur frequently after neurosurgery, and a multimodal approach to pain management and anti-emesis is recommended.
  • The postoperative patient is under a significant amount of physiologic stress that is manifest with fluctuations in blood pressure, blood glucose, heart rate and variations in systemic oxygen consumption (VO2). This stressful state is modulated by changes in sympathetic tone that control body temperature and vascular tone, and are responsive to pain and nausea with or without vomiting.
  • Careful post-operative neurologic monitoring is indicated in all neurosurgical patients for a minimum of 6 hours after surgery. In most cases, the patient will require overnight monitoring in the ICU. Disposition of most post-operative patients is determined by the type of surgery, with the majority of cases able to leave the intensive care unit within 24 hours.
  • Depending on the type of brain surgery undergone, medications will be given. Steroid medication (to control swelling) and anticonvulsant medication (to prevent seizures) are commonly prescribed.
  • Less severe complications such as pain and post operative nausea and vomiting (PONY) are usually self-limited and will resolve with prompt treatment. If the patient experiences an intracranial hemorrhage or severe cerebral edema, a longer ICU stay is appropriate until the patient is stable.
  • The patient should expect to stay in the hospital for about five days. The exact length of stay depends on many factors, such as the type of surgery performed and whether the patient had any complications or requires further treatment.
  • Stitches (or staples) are usually removed about one week after surgery.

The amount of time required to recover after brain surgery is different for each person and depends on:

  • The procedure used to remove the brain tumor
  • The location of the tumor within the brain
  • Areas of the brain affected by the surgery
  • The patient’s age and overall health

Brain surgery is generally the first line of treatment for brain injuries and conditions. However, other forms of treatment may include, for example, radiation therapy and chemotherapy in the case of brain cancer. Preparing the body before surgery with a healthy diet and active lifestyle can strengthen the immune system and help recover faster.

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