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  • Writer's picturePietro D'Urso

Awake craniotomy

An awake craniotomy, which can also be referred to as awake brain surgery, is a surgical procedure performed on the brain whilst the patient is awake and alert. An awake craniotomy can be used to treat a number of different neurological disorders such as epilepsy and brain tumours.

If the tumour, or affected area, is in an eloquent area of the brain which controls functions such as vision or speech and language there is a risk of damage to these areas during surgery. By having an awake craniotomy, the surgeon is able to test the patients functions throughout the surgery in real time to ensure that none of the major functions are compromised.

When treatment done for the same sort of tumour is done using a normal craniotomy, it is impossible to check the functionality in real time and the risk of damaging healthy tissue may be higher.

Like with all surgeries, an awake craniotomy comes with its own risks. Your doctor will go over all of these before you have the surgery. Some of the most common risks include:

  • Altered vision

  • Problems with speech

  • Seizures

  • Problems with balance or coordination

  • Memory loss

Before you have any surgery, your doctor will do lots of tests and scans to determine the best treatment. If it is decided that an awake craniotomy is the best treatment option, your doctor will offer it. There are lots of benefits to choosing an awake craniotomy. The goal of this surgery is to reduce the size or completely remove the tumour while also improving quality of life for the patient.

Before the surgery you may be asked to do an activity so that they can compare your ability to do it during the surgery.

You will be given medication at the start of the procedure to ensure that you are asleep and do not feel anything. Once the necessary area has been located you will be woken up. One doctor will test your functions while the neurosurgeon maps out the area of tissue that can be safely removed.

Once the surgery is complete you will be sent for some scans and will need to stay in hospital for a few days. It usually takes around 6 weeks till you are able to take part in normal activities again.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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