What is a Craniotomy and What is it Used to Treat?

Rebound neurosurgeon Dr. Ashok Modha explains what a craniotomy is, why it is performed and what risks are involved.

What is a Craniotomy?

Craniotomy, a procedure typically performed under general anesthesia, involves the surgical removal of part of the skull.

“During this procedure, we remove part of the bone from the skull that’s referred to as the ‘bone flap’,” says Dr. Modha. “This temporary method of opening the skull gives us access to the brain, so we can either remove a tumor or treat the affected area.”

Prior to surgery, the surgeon will shave the necessary area of the scalp and make an incision.  To remove the bone flap, the surgeon first drills a hole in the skull at the precise area of the brain being treated.

Once the surgeon has completed surgery on the affected area of the brain, he or she replaces the bone flap. This is usually done with plates, screws or wires.

When would a craniotomy be performed? 

At Rebound, our neurosurgery team primarily performs craniotomies for brain tumors, arteriovenous malformations and aneurysms,” says Dr. Modha. “But, this type of surgery can be used for several other issues affecting the brain.”

Neurosurgeons perform craniotomies to allow them to treat a variety of brain conditions and injuries. Some of those most common include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Hemorrhage or hematomas
  • Aneurysms
  • Damaged tissue
  • Abscesses
  • Severe nerve or facial pain
  • Epilepsy

What risks are associated with craniotomy?

“With any surgery, there are potential risks, some of which depend on the severity of the patient’s condition and their current health,” says Dr. Modha. “Our team works with each patient to educate them on their options, whether they be surgical or not, and the risks that go along with their treatment.”

While the risk is rare, brain surgery has the potential to interfere with memory, speech, vision, muscle control, coordination and balance.

“Depending on the part of the brain that is being operated on, some patients may experience speech difficulties or balance and coordination problems temporarily after surgery,” says Dr. Modha. “However, because surgery is being performed on an organ that controls these essential daily functions, there is the risk of impairing those functions permanently.”

Other potential risks that are specifically associated with brain surgery include coma, blood clots, hemorrhaging or swelling of the brain, stroke and seizures.

Many risks associated with craniotomy are dependent on your current health and medical history.

About our neurosurgery team

At Rebound you will have a multidisciplinary team of specialized physicians equipped with the latest technologies geared toward improved quality of life. We believe in educating our patients’ of their choices and offer surgical and non-surgical options. All of our neurosurgery doctors are board certified.


Rebound Brain Neurosurgery Resources:

Brain & Spine Neurosurgery Team and Services

Neurosurgery Resources & Links

Neurosurgery Animations – Craniotomy for Tumor

Stereotactic Radiosurgery – Gamma Knife

Trusted Brain Neurosurgery Resources:

American Brain Tumor Association – Brain Tumor Surgery

U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – Craniotomy – Series

Johns Hopkins Medicine – What is a Craniotomy?

American Association of Neurological Surgeons – Brain Tumors

U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – Brain Surgery