Post craniotomy healing / normal recovery

I noticed I have been adding a lot of stories about my day to day happenings since surgery and thought I would just give you a list of what I am figuring as normal healing post Craniotomy surgery.

Just after surgery: I only remember 10 days post surgery because of the steroid induced psychosis. When I got home from the hospital.

Tightness in the skull: from the plates and screws holding the bone flap. It feels very tight like your skull is ridged instead of fluid feeling. (hard to explain but it almost feels like your skull and skin should have movement but does not)

Pain: The pain in manageable with the pain Meds I was down to 1/2 tablet every 4-6 hours. Helpful hint is a very soft pillow for the head. Sleep on your back with the head elevated with pillows or have blankets put either under you mattress to elevate the whole bed or under your billows to make a prop that is not easily moved.

Fatigue: You feel drained like you have been up for days fatigue. I found that every 3-4 hours I would get this fatigue and then sleep for a few hours. It is like your internal body clock is rest and every 3-4 hours is being awake for a whole day. I could fall asleep just about anywhere. You want to just lay flat. It helps with the headaches as well.

Headaches: these are similar to the low CSF type headaches laying flat really helped me relieve the pain. They would go from 0-6 on the pain scale.

Numbness: from where the skin was lifted from the skull. You can’t really feel where you are touching or scratching.

Stitches: Just like with any healing wound would will have itchiness. I found rubbing the hair that is growing a relief just did not push down to where I was touching the incision. Ask your Dr. If you should be using an ointment on you incision to keep it from drying out. I found out from the surgeon 20 days post surgery I should have been putting ointment on the incision to keep it from drying up.

Plates and screws: mild to moderate shooting type pains where the screws and plates meet the skin. They come and go quickly.

Head pin sores: After they put you to sleep for the craniotomy your head is placed in to a holder that usually has 3 pins they are like a sharp screw that holds your head still during surgery. I had one about 3 inches above my left ear, one just behind my ear and one on my right forehead just above the outside edge of the eye brow. They are basically like a small round stab wound. The area of bone and skin will have small scabs that will twinge with pain then itch and then the scab will fall off. You will be able to feel the indents in the bone until the bone fills in. No really too painful just kinda there.

Large dandruff flakes: for the first mont I had the worst dandruff. It is actually your skin rejuvenating from the trauma of having the skin peeled from the bone, and from not being able to scrub your head when showering or brushing your hair. Ask the Dr BEFORE you use any dandruff type shampoo.

Nausea: it is normal to feel queasy after they do brain surgery. They give you Meds for this. Should go away about 2 weeks post surgery.

Constipation: take your stool softeners folks. The drugs that they give you during surgery are hefty drugs and they will stop you like the hover dam. Any straining and your head feels like it will explode. Same with coughing and sneezing, just try not to cough or sneeze.

Memory / brain function: this will be different for everyone. I have what I have started calling brain farts. They are actual brain pauses. I have trouble with finding the right word when having a conversation. I will be mid sentence and will not for the life of me be able to pull the right word. Example I wanted the word fireworks I could see the actual fireworks In my thought but substituted the word bomb because i could not come up with fireworks.

1month post surgery

Pain: surgical pain should be just about be gone. Should is the key word hear. As long as you are using ointment on the incision, resting, and have no infections they incision should be on the mend.

Numbness: still there, nerves should be starting to heal. You will feel these as quick shooting type pains they come quick and leave quickly.more of a nuisance than actually something to worry about.

Headaches: they are still there just not as intense as they were last month. Laying down does make the go away.

Fatigue: you should feel like you have a little bit more energy. Just don’t over do it. Naps are still your best friend

Incision: you should be healing up great by now. I found that I was always touching it and the short hair around it. FYI if you rub the incision you will cause yourself unneeded pain. Those nerves are just firing away every time you touch it.

2nd month post craniotomy

Plates and screws: your skin should now be back to normal over the plates. You will actually be able to feel the plates and screws. Just remember that your nerves are still growing back so their might be pain when you play with them.

Memory brain function: still having the issue with finding the right words and replacing them with similar words. Also I just pause, find the right word then continue with the conversation. Example I needed skier, in my head I saw the skier going down the hill and had to go through a complete explanation to the person I was talking to saying “you know the guy going down the hill, snow, poles, things on his feet” they gave me the word and I kept going on with the conversation. Frustrating and not very entertaining.

Headaches: deep twinges inside the head. I assume that since my CT scan is clear that this is just my. Rain healing from the surgeons lifting up the brain. More nerves type thing.

Numbness: still there

Itchy scalp: when the nerves are firing off trying to heal themselves it is on the crown of the scalp. Doc said this could take a while to go away.

I am going on my 3rd full month post surgery on the 31st of the month. I have almost my full energy back. The headaches come and go. Mostly I forget I have had the surgery until about 3 pm everyday then the headaches come (these headaches might be from a small continued CSF leak that we are currently investigating. I will be updating the blog after we figure this out)

So I hope in the future that these notes can help someone else out. After a craniotomy you tend to think every little pain is a major concern (at least I do sometimes) your surgeon will give you instructions about when to call them with a concern.

Right now my post surgical instructions are if I get a really bad headache and a stiff neck is to call them and then go to the ER. So for now I am just dealing with the small stuff.

Good luck with your journey. God Bless.

About Just Jules

USCG Vet, wife, daughter, recently blimded in one eye from brain surgery, using my passion for 3Gun as my rehab.
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294 Responses to Post craniotomy healing / normal recovery

  1. Mary Lou says:

    Thanks everybody for writing parts of my story. It does feel better to know that others are going thru some of this too.

  2. Angela says:

    My son 22yrs of age was shot in the back of the head back in October he is home and doing awesome but they had to remove part of his skull and it is still missing. My son has this thing about going on rides in amusement parks does anyone have any advice on what to do?! Does or has anyone gone on any rides with a piece of his or her skull missing?!

  3. I just want to thank you for writing this, I worry about whats normal and whats not :( I havent had a full craniotomy yet, im awaiting a new skull then they will put it back in but I am experiencing a lot of what you have written about x

  4. Eileen Leach says:

    iv had two crainiotamys two weeks apart from each other right side n left side, after having a fit and learning with a brain scan i had two brain anyeursms, i would just like to say if you go into theatre strong minded and positive you will recover much easier, i read everything i could read on how its done beforehand and also read alot on my surgeon and how good he was, i was in hospital a week after the first op but only because i was scheduled to have 2nd op a week after and doctors wanted to monitor how i recovered for my 2nd op, unfortunately there was no hdu bed available for me the following week so i was allowed home for another week, i then returned for my 2nd op and was only in for three days, i recoverd both very well , its almost a year on and the only after affect is tiredness..

  5. Ana Antunes says:

    Thank you for this information. It was helpfull. From Portugal

  6. Donna says:

    Question… I’ve written here before, but it has been about 15 months or so since my craniotomy for subdural. I’ve noticed over the last month that my scar has become really different than it was. It’s like the skull parts have pulled away from each other and left a ‘valley’ of sorts between them. Has anyone else had this? I suppose it is normal, it’s just kind of disconcerting. Also, the scar is kind of created a radiating pain down into my jaw where it feels like dental pain, but if I massage under my jaw, it leads up to the scar around my ear. Just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on that. Hope you’re all doing okay out there. Donna

    • Judith says:

      Hi Donna – mine changes all the time. Sometimes up and then sometimes down. I also get pain from ear to jaw-line. I think that is because they cut all the muscles of your jaw when taking care of the aneurysm. Mine hurts off and on and I have fake teeth my neuro guy says it will get better overtime. Mine was done on February 14, 2014. Good luck with everything……..we are such a strong bunch!

      • Donna says:

        Hey Judith, thanks for the words. I just wondered if my skull plate they cut was shrinking away, it was such a growing gap. My how time has flown and what all has happened since this. Best wishes to you and to all that have written here.

  7. Judy says:

    This was a life saver. I just had a middle fossel crainiotomy. I am on my ninth week out. Still tired and getting headaches. I had a cranial fluid leak on the right side of the brain. That heaven for great caregivers.

  8. Emilie says:

    This was incredibly helpful! I have one question about your recovery: how long did you have fluid? I had my craniotomy done three weeks ago and there’s still a ton of fluid and my eye is still droopy. Did yours go away quickly or did it take a long time?

    Thanks for all of your help!

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