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Brain and Skull Base Tumor Resection Surgery and Recovery

UPMC Content 3

A brain tumor's location or proximity to vital tissue can make minimally invasive procedures difficult. Examples of such procedures include the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA) or Neuroendoport® surgery. In these instances, our neurosurgeons may perform a tumor resection through traditional, microsurgical methods.

Microsurgery may require incisions or incisions behind the ear to safely access and remove the brain tumor.

How Do You Perform Brain Resection Surgery?

UPMC neurosurgeons bring their expertise and experience to all types of brain resection surgery. During these surgeries, specialists remove tissue from the part of the brain where symptoms such as seizures originate. They may also remove some types of brain tumors and skull base tumors with brain resection surgery.

Before surgery begins, specialists shave the hair on your scalp near the surgery site. The neurosurgeon begins by making a small opening in the bones of the skull (known as a craniotomy).

Surgeons use different tools to access and remove problematic brain tissue or tumors. Your surgeon may use:

  • Scissors or a sharp knife (scalpel).
  • A laser.
  • An ultrasonic aspirator (a tool that uses sound waves to break up tissue, along with suction to remove pieces of tissue).

Experts use brain resection surgery for different conditions that affect the brain. Brain resection treats:

  • Different types of epilepsy, including generalized onset seizures, focal onset seizures, and unknown onset seizures.
  • Different types of brain tumors, such as low-grade gliomas. These are brain tumors that invade normal brain tissue and cause symptoms such as seizures as they grow.

What Are the Different Kinds of Brain Resection Surgeries?

Surgeons use different types of surgery to treat disorders of the brain and to remove brain tumors. Brain resection surgeries include:

Epilepsy surgeries

If you have epilepsy, brain resection surgery may help control seizures. When they've determined the part of the brain in which seizures originate, neurosurgeons may recommend lobe resection, including:

  • Temporal lobe resection: Neurosurgeons remove part (or all) of the temporal lobe to control seizures that occur in this part of the brain. The temporal lobe helps with language, visual memories, and sensory input. Temporal lobe resection is the most common epilepsy surgery.
  • Frontal lobe resection: Surgeons remove part of the frontal lobe, which controls concentration, attention, and impulses. Frontal lobe resection is the second most common epilepsy surgery.
  • Parietal and occipital lobe resection: Surgeons remove part of one or both lobes located at the back of the brain. The parietal lobe processes sensory information and the occipital lobe processes visual information. Doctors may perform this surgery when a tumor, scar tissue, or structural difference in these parts of the brain cause seizures.

Prior to these surgeries, specialized scans and other diagnostic tests help surgeons visualize adjacent structures and nerve fibers. This allows them to preserve these healthy and important brain structures during operation.

Brain tumor surgery

Neurosurgeons perform brain tumor surgery to remove part of a brain tumor or an entire mass. Depending on the tumor's location within the brain and the type of tumor, you may have:
  • Awake craniotomy: Doctors give you medication so that you won't feel pain, but you're able to talk with the surgeon. Your surgeon may ask questions and see how your brain responds to ensure precise treatment and help maintain brain function. Surgeons may use this approach when operating on brain areas that control critical brain functions. These procedures are only performed in highly complex conditions.
  • Craniotomy with general anesthesia: You receive medication that makes you fall asleep (lose consciousness). You won't have any awareness of the surgery or remember anything that happens.

Benefits and Risks of Brain Resection Surgery

UPMC surgeons use brain resection surgery to help people with epilepsy and people with brain tumors. These surgeries can help control symptoms and improve your quality of life. With brain resection surgery, you may experience benefits such as:

  • Reduced number of seizures and reduced risk of seizure emergencies.
  • Reduced need for certain medications.
  • Improved cognitive abilities (thinking, seeing, speaking, and remembering).
  • Less anxiety and depression.
  • Less pressure within the skull.

It's also important to understand the risks of brain resection surgery. Risks include:

  • Blood clots in the brain.
  • Infection of the brain, or of the surgical incision.
  • Swelling in the brain.
  • Increased risk of seizures or stroke.
  • Temporary or permanent problems with thinking, seeing, speech, and memory.

What To Expect From Brain Resection Surgery

Your neurologist and neurosurgeon will talk with you about your brain condition. You'll have imaging tests so the surgeon can determine the exact location of the tumors or seizures. Surgeons use this information to plan your brain resection surgery.

You may have:

  • MRI of the brain: A test that uses powerful magnets to create images of your brain's structure.
  • CT scan: A test that uses x-rays and a computer to create a series of detailed brain images.
  • Brain angiogram: A test that uses an injection of contrast dye through a flexible tube (catheter) to make brain tissue more visible during x-rays.

Your neurosurgeon will tell you about the benefits and risks of brain resection surgery. They'll answer your questions about what to expect after surgery. When you and your neurosurgeon decide on a treatment plan, your surgeon will give you instructions for the day of your surgery.

What to expect before brain resection surgery

Talk to your doctor about any medications you take and whether you should stop taking them before surgery. Your doctor will also give you instructions about whether you can eat or drink before the surgery.

What to expect on the day of brain surgery

On the day of surgery, specialists will shave part of your scalp. You'll receive medication so you don't feel pain if you're having an awake craniotomy. If you are not having an awake craniotomy, you'll receive general anesthesia.

What to expect right after brain resection surgery

After surgery, you'll stay in a recovery area for observation. Doctors will check your heart rate and blood pressure, and how your brain is working. You may have medication so you don't feel pain.

You may stay in the hospital for a few days, including some time in the intensive care unit (ICU). Specialists in physical therapy or speech and swallowing therapy may work with you to check your brain function. When you're discharged, your doctor will give you instructions for what to do at home as you continue healing.

Brain resection surgery recovery

The brain resection surgery recovery process is different for each person. You may recover in just a few weeks, or it may take longer to heal. Talk to your doctor about what you should expect depending on the type of surgery you have.

It's normal to have different symptoms as you heal. You may experience some pain and some trouble concentrating or remembering. Let your doctor know right away if you have:

  • Confusion, or if you see or hear things that aren't there (hallucination).
  • Fainting.
  • Fever.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Seizures.

Who Should Consider Brain Resection Surgery?

Talk to your neurologist about any cognitive symptoms you experience. If medications don't control your seizures or other symptoms, brain resection surgery may help. Let your doctor know if your symptoms make it hard or impossible for you to:

  • Drive.
  • Work.
  • Go to school.
  • Sleep.
  • Socialize.

Brain resection surgery isn't right for everyone. UPMC neurology experts help you learn about your treatment options and what you can expect.

Trust UPMC With Your Brain Resection Surgery

UPMC neurosurgeons have experience and expertise in all types of brain resection surgeries. Our specialists make sure you have the information and resources you need to decide on the treatment that's right for you.

Contact the UPMC neurosurgery team to learn more about brain resection or to make an appointment. Call us at 412-647-3685 or 1-877-320-8762 (outside the U.S.).

Contact the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery

To make an appointment or learn more: