Cranioplasty is a procedure involving the surgical repair of skull fractures or deformities which can result from an injury or a previous neurosurgical operation that required access to the brain. Sometimes, the deformity can also be a birth defect.
A cranioplasty will not only improve the appearance of your head, but it will provide several medical benefits as well. Strengthening the problem area can offer much more thorough protection for one’s brain. Additionally, those patients who experience headaches or any neurological impairment might find their symptoms are diminished after they undergo a cranioplasty.
A cranioplasty can be performed for any of the following purposes:
- In certain places, a cranial defect might leave your brain vulnerable to damage, for which cranioplasty can help.
- Cranioplasty might help in improving neurological function for some patients.
- Sometimes, a customized cranial implant is designed ahead of time, for helping the surgeon obtain an ideal shape and outcome.
- Cranioplasty can help in improving your aesthetics, as a noticeable skull defect can affect your confidence and appearance.
- This procedure can reduce headaches as well, from previous surgeries or injuries.
Let your doctor know if you are having any health problems, including blood-clotting conditions. You might need to avoid blood thinners, as well as any anti-inflammatory drugs. If you have allergies to any medications or any other substances, let your doctor know about this
First you will be given a general anesthetic. Once you are unconscious, the team will position you in a way so that the surgeons are able to have access to the bone defect. Then the area of the incision will be shaved and prepared with antiseptic and you are protected by drapes that will only leave the surgical area exposed.
Then the surgeon will cut off the skin of your scalp carefully and gently separate it into layers. This can help in protecting the dura, which covers your brain. The team will then clean the edges of your surrounding bone and prepare the surface so that the bone or implant can be properly positioned in the defect, after which it will be secured to the cranial bones with plates, screws or both.
When the bone or implant is in place, the bleeding is controlled. Then the team will move the scalp back to its original position and close the incision with nylon suture. You might also have a small suction drain left in place.
You will wake up in recovery and you will be monitored by the nursing staff for any signs of complication. They will be measuring your pulse, blood pressure, limb strength as well as level of alertness.
After around one day, your IV drip in the arm will be removed and you will be encouraged to walk. Gradually, you should be able to move around normally. Your bandage on your head will be removed on the second day after your surgery.
Generally, patients who undergo the procedure spend around two to three days in the hospital after the surgery. Your healthcare team will determine when are able to get around, shower and dress yourself. You should next get another CT scan of your head. If the surgical site is looking okay, you will be released from the hospital and will be free to go home.
It should take some time before you feel completely normal again. You will be tired and might face intermittent headaches. You should schedule further appointments with your doctor to have the sutures removed. You might require rehabilitation as well, in some cases.
If you notice increasing headache, fever, seizures or a swelling or an infection in the wound, or fluid leaking from the wound, then you will need to contact your healthcare team immediately. Do not drive until your doctor says you are ready to do so.
Certain risks that are associated with this procedure include:
- Postoperative blood clot which can require drainage
- Clot in the legs
Make sure you discuss all possible risks and complications with your doctor before you undergo the procedure.