A craniotomy is the surgical removal of part of the skull to expose the brain.
A craniotomy is the most commonly performed surgery to remove a brain tumor. It may also be done to remove a blood clot and control hemorrhage, to inspect the brain, to perform a biopsy, or to relieve pressure inside the skull.
The outcome of surgery will depend on the type and location of the tumor. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy are sometimes given before surgery to shrink the tumor.
There are two basic ways to open the skull. A curving incision may be made from behind the hairline, in front of the ear, to arch above the eye, or at the nape of the neck around the occipital lobe. The surgeon marks with a felt tip pen a large square flap on the scalp that
covers the surgical area. Following this mark, the surgeon makes an incision into the skin as far as the thin membrane covering the skull bone. Because the scalp is well supplied with blood, the surgeon will have to seal many small arteries. The surgeon then folds back a skin flap to expose the bone.
Using a high speed hand drill or an automatic craniotome, the surgeon makes a circle of holes in the skull and pushes a soft metal guide under the bone from one hole to the next. A fine wire saw is then moved along the guide channel under the bone between adjacent holes. The surgeon saws through the bone until the bone flap can be removed to expose the brain.
After the surgery for the underlying cause is completed, the piece of skull is replaced and secured with pieces of fine, soft wire. Finally, the surgeon sutures the membrane, muscle, and skin of the scalp.
Recent advances in computer-assisted technology have enhanced this operation. Image-guided craniotomy uses information from magnetic resonance imagining scans (MRIs) or computed tomography (CT) scans to produce three-dimensional images of the brain for the surgeon before the operation is begun. This makes it possible for the surgeon to remove less skin and bone, to tell exactly where the tumor stops and the healthy brain begins, and to remove tumors that were previously too deep for surgery.
Carol A. Turkington, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,