Type of Surgery
Last updated: 11/24/2009
There are two methods commonly utilized by surgeons to open the skull. Either an incision is made at the nape of the neck around the bone at the back (occipital bone) or a curving incision is made in front of the ear that arches above the eye. The...
incision penetrates as far as the thin membrane covering the skull bone. During skin incision the surgeon must seal off many small blood vessels because the scalp has a rich blood supply.
The scalp tissue is then folded back to expose the bone. Using a high-speed drill, the surgeon drills a pattern of holes through the cranium (skull) and uses a fine wire saw to connect the holes until a segment of bone (bone flap) can be removed. This gives the surgeon access to the inside of the skill and allows him to proceed with surgery inside the brain. After removal of the internal brain lesion or other procedure is completed, the bone is replaced and secured into position with soft wire. Membranes, muscle, and skin are sutured into position. If the lesion is an aneurysm, the affected artery is sealed at the leak. If there is a tumor, as much of it as possible is resected (removed). For arteriovenous malformations, the abnormality is clipped and the repair redirects the blood flow to normal vessels.
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A craniotomy is a surgical operation in which part of the skull, called a bone flap, is removed in order to access the brain. Craniotomies are often a critical operation performed on patients suffering from brain lesions or traumatic brain injury (TBI), and can also allow doctors to surgically implant deep brain stimulators for the treatment of Parkinson's disease, epilepsy and cerebellar tremor. The procedure is also widely used in neuroscience for extracellular recording, brain imaging, and for neurological manipulations such as electrical stimulation and chemical titration.
Human craniotomy is usually performed under general anesthesia but can be also done with the patient awake using a local anaesthetic; the procedure generally does not involve significant discomfort for the patient. In general, a craniotomy will be preceded by an MRI scan which provides a picture of the brain that the surgeon uses to plan the precise location for bone removal and the appropriate angle of access to the relevant brain areas. The amount of skull that needs to be removed depends to a large extent on the type of surgery being performed. Most small holes can heal with no difficulty. When larger parts of the skull must be removed, surgeons will usually try to retain the bone flap and replace it immediately after surgery. It is held in place temporarily with metal plates and rather quickly reintegrates with the intact part of the skull, at which point the metal plates are removed.
Craniotomy is distinguished from craniectomy, in which the skull flap is not replaced, and from trepanation, which is performed voluntarily without medical necessity.
Select comparative data from 1999 to 2006 include a decrease of 14 percent in the number of neurosurgeons in private practice and a decrease of 13 percent in the number of neurosurgeons in solo practice.
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