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Your Hospital Recovery After Craniotomy

Craniotomy is a surgical opening made in the skull. This is done to reach and treat several types of problems in the brain. Special tools are used to temporarily remove a piece of the skull. This allows access to the brain for surgery. The most commons reasons for having a craniotomy include:

  • A blood clot (hematoma)

  • Tumors

  • Aneurysyms and arteriovenous malformations (AVM)

  • Brain abscess

After a craniotomy is done, the surgeon will talk with your family and friends. You'll wake up in a recovery area. Then you'll be moved to a special unit where you'll be closely watched. This is often an ICU (intensive care unit).

Right after surgery

On waking, you may have a headache, nausea, and body aches. Your nurses can give you medicines to ease the pain and nausea. Monitors may be used to measure your heart rate or the pressure inside your skull. You may be wearing special leg stockings (compression stockings) to help prevent blood clots. And for a short while, you may need oxygen by mask or a machine (ventilator) to help you breathe.

In your hospital room

You may be moved from the ICU to a hospital room within 24 hours. Or it may take up to  2 days or longer, depending upon your condition. Once in your room, you're taught breathing exercises to keep your lungs clear. Your healthcare team will work to have you eating and walking as soon as possible.


If you're having a hard time doing certain physical activities, therapy may be prescribed. Depending on your needs, therapists can work with you to improve balance, strength, speech, and daily living skills. You may need assistive devices. If you're having problems with strength or movement, your therapist may suggest installing handrails in hallways or bathrooms at home.

Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph Campellone MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2021
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