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Craniotomy for Excision of a Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformation


  • You may need a craniotomy if your caregiver has told you that you have an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). A craniotomy is surgery to open your skull and operate on your brain. An AVM is an abnormal connection between your veins and arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that bring blood with oxygen to your different body organs. Veins are blood vessels that bring blood without oxygen to your heart. An AVM may be found anywhere in your brain. Normally, blood flows from your arteries, through your capillaries (very small blood vessels), then into your veins. In AVMs, capillaries are absent and blood flows directly from your arteries into your veins.
  • You may have had an AVM since birth or you may have developed an AVM during your life. You may need a craniotomy if your AVM causes your brain to bleed. You may also need a craniotomy if you have symptoms such as seizures (convulsions), headaches, or speech problems. Your caregiver will grade your AVM based on its size, location, and depth. This will help him decide whether a craniotomy is right for you. After a craniotomy, your headaches and other symptoms may decrease or stop. You may also find it easier to move and speak.



  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.
  • Anticonvulsant medicine: This medicine is given to control seizures. Take this medicine exactly as directed.
  • Antihypertensives: You may receive antihypertensives, which is medicine to lower your blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure may decrease the pressure in your brain.
  • Anti-nausea medicine: The feeling that you are about to throw up is called nausea. You may feel nausea or throw up (vomit) after receiving general anesthesia. Nausea and vomiting may cause your brain to bleed because the pressure inside is increased. This medicine may be given to help calm your stomach and help stop you from vomiting.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease swelling in your brain.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

  • You will need to visit your caregiver after your craniotomy. Your caregiver may do tests to make certain that your AVM was completely removed. Your caregiver will also decide when it is time to remove your stitches and bandages.


  • You have chills.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your cuts are swollen or red.
  • Your cuts are leaking pus.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have signs of a stroke: The following signs are an emergency. Call 911 immediately if you have any of the following:
    • Weakness or numbness in your arm, leg, or face (may be on only one side of your body)
    • Confusion and problems speaking or understanding speech
    • A very bad headache that may feel like the worst headache of your life
    • Not being able to see out of one or both of your eyes
    • Feeling too dizzy to stand

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

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.