How Dangerous Is Brain Surgery?

Brain surgery refers to various medical procedures
Brain surgery refers to various medical procedures

Brain surgery refers to various medical procedures that involve repairing structural or functional problems in the brain. Neurosurgeons perform different types of brain surgery for different conditions in the brain. The type of brain surgery performed is based on the area of the brain affected and condition being treated. Invasive brain surgery and minimally invasive/endoscopic brain surgery can be performed without any incisions (surgical cuts).

A brain aneurysm, for example, can be treated using a rubber tube introduced into an artery in the groin and guiding it to the brain. If the aneurysm ruptures and bleeds, an open surgery called craniotomy may be used. Moreover, the surgeon may approach the brain through the nose using an endoscope without any external scars. This may also be performed by ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeons trained in endoscopic skull base surgery. Most types of brain surgery are critical and complicated processes that require expert surgical care. Each surgery is treated on a case-by-case basis because the outcome may vary in each case. Although surgeons are extremely careful and thorough while operating, brain surgery is associated with several risks. It can also take time to recover after brain surgery, especially if open surgery is being performed. Brain surgery is not always dangerous. All surgical procedures carry some amount of risk, whereas brain surgery carries a higher risk because it is a major medical event.

Risks of brain surgery

Risk may vary with the type of brain surgery and problem being treated. Possible risks associated with brain surgery include

  • Bleeding inside the brain
  • Infection in the brain
  • Blood clots
  • Inflammation and swelling of the brain
  • Impaired or complete loss of speech, vision, coordination or balance
  • Memory problems or loss of memory
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Reaction to anesthesia

What are the types of brain surgery?

Several types of brain surgery are performed, and they depend on the problem being treated.

  • Craniotomy: This involves making an incision in the scalp and creating a hole called a bone flap in the skull near the brain area being treated. Neurosurgeons may perform a craniotomy to remove tumors, drain fluid, blood, etc. They may sometimes leave the hole open in the case of tumors, infection or brain swelling to allow space for the swollen brain.
  • Biopsy: It is a procedure to remove a small amount of the brain tissue or a tumor using a small incision or hole to be examined under a microscope.
  • Minimally invasive endonasal endoscopic surgery: This type of surgery allows the surgeon to remove tumors or lesions through your nose and sinuses without making an external incision. This is used for skull base tumors such as pituitary gland tumors. This may be performed by ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeons trained in endoscopic and skull base surgery.
  • Minimally invasive neuroendoscopy: Similar to minimally invasive endonasal endoscopic surgery, neuroendoscopy uses endoscopes (camera-fitted scopes) to remove brain tumors. The surgeon makes small holes in the skull through which they insert an endoscope and surgical instruments to perform brain surgery.
  • Deep brain stimulation: Neurosurgeons make a small hole in the skull. Instead of removing a piece of the tissue, they insert a small electrode into a deep portion of the brain. They connect the electrode to a battery at the chest like a pacemaker. Electrical signals will be transmitted to help treat symptoms of certain brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.


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