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Complications After Craniotomy Surgery

author image Rae Uddin
Rae Uddin has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2004. She specializes in scientific journalism and medical and technical writing. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Uddin earned her Master of Science in integrated biomedical sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biochemistry from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Complications After Craniotomy Surgery
Surgeons working on a patient mid-surgery. Photo Credit: Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images

A craniotomy is a surgical procedure in which a small portion of the skull is removed, allowing a surgeon to access the brain. This type of surgery may be beneficial for people who develop a brain aneurysm or tumor, or experience significant brain trauma. Talk with a doctor about the potential complications after craniotomy surgery before undergoing this procedure.

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Brain Swelling

Craniotomy surgery can irritate and inflame a person's brain. This can cause you to experience brain swelling complications after brain surgery. Brain swelling causes fluid to abnormally accumulate within the skull. You may experience severe headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting. Brain swelling complications after craniotomy surgery may require you to have a second craniotomy to relieve the pressure within the skull.

Brain or Nerve Damage

During this surgical procedure, your brain or nerves can be inadvertently damaged. People who sustain brain damage may experience difficulties with memory, speech, motor coordination, vision or balance. Nerve damage can result in muscle weakness, numbness or paralysis. These complications can be temporary and may progressively resolve as the brain begins to heal. Unfortunately, in certain cases, brain or nerve damage can be permanent.

Cerebral Spinal Fluid Leakage

People who have brain surgery are at risk of experiencing cerebral spinal fluid leakage as a complication of this procedure. Cerebral spinal fluid leakage can make you more susceptible to developing meningitis, a severe, life-threatening infection affecting the brain and spinal cord. Signs of cerebral spinal fluid leakage can include a postnasal drip-like sensation within the back of the throat or a severe headache.

Stroke, Seizure or Coma

Stroke, seizure or coma can arise as complications after craniotomy surgery. A stroke is a life-threatening condition that occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Facial or muscle weakness localized to one side of the body is the characteristic sign of a stroke. Seizure complications can develop due to a brief interruption in the electrical signaling within the brain. People who experience a seizure may lose consciousness or can experience involuntary body movements or spasms. After a seizure, a person can appear confused or disoriented. Coma, a state of unconsciousness, can also occur.


In certain cases, people can develop an infection following brain surgery. The infection can develop within the brain, skull or incision site. Symptoms of infection can include a fever that exceeds 101 degrees Fahrenheit, swollen or painful incision site, incision site drainage, headache, or excessive fatigue.

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