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Craniotomy for Excision of a Cerebral Arteriovenous Malformation


A craniotomy is surgery to open your skull and operate on your brain. This surgery is used to remove an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). An AVM is an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in your brain. 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, headaches, or speech problems.


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • Tests such as angiography, CT, or MRI may be done to check the blood flow in your brain and to find areas that are blocked or narrow. The pictures may also show if your blood vessels are bleeding or becoming hard.
  • An IV will be placed in a vein. You may get medicine or liquids through the IV.
  • Antibiotics may be given to prevent an infection caused by bacteria.

During your surgery:

  • Anesthesia will be given to keep you asleep and free from pain during your surgery. Your surgeon will make an incision in your scalp. He or she will then remove a piece of your skull to see your brain and AVM.
  • Your surgeon will clip or tie the arteries to stop the blood flow to your AVM. A substance may be injected to block the arteries. This plugs up the arteries so blood cannot flow into your AVM. Your surgeon will then remove the cluster of abnormal blood vessels from your AVM. The vein that was attached to the AVM will be tied. Your skull bone will be put back in place. The incision will be closed with stitches and covered with bandages.

After your surgery:

You will be taken to a room where you will rest until you wake up. Healthcare providers will watch you closely for any problems. When healthcare providers see that you are okay, you will be taken back to your hospital room. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. A healthcare provider may remove your bandages soon after surgery to check your wound.

  • Medicines may be given to control seizures or decrease the pressure in your brain. Medicines may be used to keep you asleep or decrease swelling in your brain. You may also need medicine to prevent nausea and vomiting. Blood thinners may be used to prevent blood clots. You may bleed or bruise more easily while you are taking blood thinners.
  • Tests will be used to make sure your AVM was completely removed. You may need other tests to check for abnormal vessels or bleeding in your brain.


You may get an infection. You may have headaches, eyesight problems, or seizures. Your brain and the layers of tissue that cover it may swell. You may need surgery again if some of the abnormal blood vessels were not removed. You may get a blood clot. Your AVM may also bleed heavily in your brain. If there is bleeding or a blood clot in your brain, you may have a stroke. These problems can be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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.

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