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Awake Craniotomy and Brain Mapping for Tumors

Brain tumors may form in parts of the brain that control crucial functions like movement, speech, and vision.

With awake craniotomy and brain mapping, UPMC neurosurgeons can help protect these functions. This advanced technology allows them to map brain function before they safely remove brain tumors.

What Is An Awake Craniotomy and Brain Mapping?

It's a type of brain surgery to remove tumors while you're awake.

During an awake craniotomy, UPMC neurosurgeons remove a small piece of your skull to make an opening.

They use this opening to access and remove brain tumors. They can also repair any damage to nearby brain tissue.

Neurosurgeons may do awake brain surgery when tumors are in parts of the brain that control functions like:

  • Movement.
  • Speech.
  • Vision.

Your neurosurgeon will talk with you in order to map brain function.

They may ask you to respond to certain questions or commands. Your responses help guide your surgeon to remove the brain tumor and preserve vital brain functions.

Is Awake Brain Surgery Right for Me?

Awake craniotomy isn't right for everyone.

Generally, neurosurgeons use awake brain surgery if you have a complex brain tumor.

A complex brain tumor may:

  • Become involved with or attached to the brain's blood vessels.
  • Form in areas that control speech and movement (frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes).

Your UPMC neurosurgeon will ask you about any symptoms you have to see if this surgery is right for you.

They'll also take into account:

  • Your age.
  • Your concerns and feelings about awake brain surgery.
  • Your health and any other conditions you may have (like obesity, sleep apnea, or trouble breathing).
  • The type of brain tumor you have and how it's growing (its grade).
  • If you'll be able to respond to the their questions and commands.

What Are the Risks and Benefits of Awake Brain Surgery?

Awake craniotomy offers many benefits in treating brain tumors.

Your neurosurgeon interacts with you during the procedure to get real-time feedback. This helps protect your vital brain functions as they remove the brain tumor.

Awake brain surgery may also help you:

  • Spend less time in the ICU post-op.
  • Have a shorter hospital stay.
  • Avoid general anesthesia risks and side effects like nausea and throwing up.

But awake craniotomy also poses some risks, such as:

  • Seizures during surgery.
  • Brain swelling.
  • Changes in your coordination and balance.
  • Memory loss.
  • Vision changes.

What Happens During Awake Brain Surgery?

During awake craniotomy, surgeons use advanced brain mapping technology. This helps them find the precise areas of your brain that control movement and speech that they'll avoid during surgery.

They keep you awake during surgery so they can constantly monitor and protect your brain function. They do this while removing as much of the tumor as possible.

Awake Craniotomy Recovery

Healing after awake brain surgery takes time. The incision in your scalp may become sore.

You may also have:

  • Swelling in your scalp or around your eyes.
  • Bruising around your eyes.
  • Numbness and pain near the incision.
  • An itchy scalp as the incision heals.

As you heal, be sure to follow your UPMC neurosurgeons instructions. You'll need extra rest.

Your doctor will tell how long before you can:

  • Drive.
  • Exercise or play sports.
  • Travel.
  • Go back to work or school.
  • Drink alcohol.

You may have some side effects after the surgery. Talk to your doctor about what's normal.

Let them know right away if you have:

  • Redness or warmth at the incision site.
  • Swelling in your neck, groin, or armpits.
  • Fever.
  • Headaches.
  • Excessive sleepiness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Vision changes.
  • Confusion or fainting.

Trust UPMC With Your Awake Craniotomy

UPMC neurosurgeons are experts in performing awake craniotomy for brain tumors.

We let you know what to expect throughout the entire awake brain surgery and mapping process. And we'll make sure you have all the details you need to decide if it's right for you.

Contact the UPMC neurosurgery team to learn more about awake craniotomy or make an appointment.

Contact the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery

To make an appointment or learn more: