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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. You may need a craniotomy if you have an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). An AVM is an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in your brain. An AVM may be found anywhere 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:

  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your healthcare provider. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your provider if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • You may need to have blood tests. Your healthcare provider may also do a CT scan or an MRI. If you have a large AVM, you may need to have a procedure called embolization before your surgery. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about other tests or procedures that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
  • Your healthcare provider will use the size, location, and depth of your AVM to help guide him during surgery.

The night before your surgery:

  • You may be given medicine to help you sleep.
  • Ask healthcare providers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your surgery:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives healthcare providers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Healthcare providers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell healthcare providers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.


What will happen:

  • Anesthesia medicine will be given to keep you asleep and free from pain during your surgery. Your healthcare provider may put in IV lines so he can monitor you during surgery.
  • Your healthcare provider will make an incision in your scalp and drill your skull. He will then remove a piece of your skull so he can see your brain and AVM. He will clip or tie the arteries to stop the blood flow to your AVM. He will then remove the cluster of abnormal blood vessels from your AVM. Your healthcare provider will tie the vein that was attached to the AVM. He will then put your skull bone back in place. He will close your incision with stitches and cover them 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. Your breathing, blood pressure, and pulse will be checked often. 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.

Waiting area:

This is an area where your family and friends can wait until you are able to have visitors. Ask your visitors to provide a way to reach them if they leave the waiting area.


  • You cannot make it to your surgery.
  • You get a cold or the flu.
  • You have a fever.

Seek Care Immediately if

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 may get an infection. You may have headaches, eyesight problems, or seizures. You may be allergic to the medicine used during your surgery, or you may bleed more than expected. 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 in your leg or arm. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs or brain. Your AVM may also hemorrhage (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.
  • If you do not have a craniotomy, your AVM may rupture and bleed. You may die if your bleeding continues. Call your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about your surgery, condition, or care.

Care Agreement

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.

Further information

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