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Craniotomy for a Brain Bleed


A craniotomy is surgery to remove part of the skull bone. This lets the surgeon fix problems in the brain. A craniotomy may be done to control bleeding and decrease pressure in the brain. Bleeding or swelling may be caused by a stroke, a blood vessel that bursts, or a head injury.


Call 911 or have someone else call for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You cannot be woken.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • You have a severe headache and a stiff neck.
  • You are confused.
  • You have changes in your vision.
  • You fall and hit your head.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
  • You feel anxious or depressed.
  • You continue to have a headache after you take your medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics help prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely.
  • Seizure medicine helps control or prevent seizures.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than a total of 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your wound as directed:

Ask your surgeon when your wound can get wet. Carefully wash around the wound with soap and water. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to use a certain type of soap or shampoo. Do not scrub your wound. Do not put hair spray, gel, or lotion on your scalp unless your healthcare provider says it is okay. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Do not swim or take a bath until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Your healthcare provider may tell you to wear a soft hat to protect the area.


  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can delay healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Ask your healthcare provider if it is safe for you to drink. Alcohol can prevent healing. It can also make your headache, dizziness, or balance worse.
  • Keep your head elevated when you sleep. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your head on 2 to 3 pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

Go to therapy as directed:

Injury to your brain may cause problems with movement, speech, or your ability to take care of yourself. You may need physical, occupational, or speech therapy to help you manage these problems. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities. A speech therapist helps you relearn or improve your ability to talk and swallow.


Rest as directed. Take short naps throughout the day if you get tired. Do not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds. Do not play contact sports. Do not drive until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Ask your healthcare provider what activities are safe for you to do. Increase your activity gradually as directed. It may take several weeks for you to get stronger and be able to do your usual activities.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return for tests. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

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