What Is It?

A craniotomy is an opening of the skull, the bone of the head that encloses the brain and its surrounding structures. Generally, in the case of this procedure the bone is reserved and later fixed into place at the end of the surgical procedure. If the bone is left out of the head, which is done for various reasons in some procedures, the term more appropriately used is a craniectomy.

These openings can be performed at various locations on the skull, depending on the area being targeted in that surgery. Obviously, to access the skull, an opening in the skin of the scalp is first performed. This skin, and any underlying tissue such as muscle, is then retracted or flapped over to expose the underlying skull. The actual craniotomy is usually performed by first performing burr holes which are then connected together by a different cutting tool. This allows the removal of a larger piece of bone which is then reserved. At the end of the operation, the bone is typically returned and fixed into place (by various types of metal devices or plates) prior to the scalp being closed over it.

The location, size and shape of the opening can obviously be tailored specifically for the needs of each case.

What Is It Used For?

These openings are an integral part in most operations on the brain and/or its surrounding structures. Therefore, most brain surgery requires a craniotomy. If only a very small opening is needed, a burr hole alone may suffice.

They are used to expose the brain in the case of many types of procedures, such as brain tumor removal, aneurysm and other blood vessel disease surgeries, epilepsy surgery, removal of traumatic hematomas, and more. Therefore, the term does not require to any one particular treatment, but rather is a general name for the opening of the skull which is required as part of many different neurosurgery procedures.

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Important Note: This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.

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