This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


What To Expect Post Brain Surgery: The Recovery, Outlook, Risks And Complications

Recovering from brain surgery requires hospital stay, follow-up observation along with rehabilitation. The type brain of procedure determines what to expect in these stages and the risks or complications present. A person many need brain surgery for different causes, such as repairing an aneurysm, removing brain tumor or for treating an acute head trauma.

In this article we will discuss about the different types of brain surgeries and what one can expect after the surgery, the risks, recovery process and tips for recovery.

What is Brain Surgery?

Brain surgery is a procedure which is done for treating abnormalities or problems within the brain and the surrounding structures (1). The brain is a vital component of the central nervous system and is responsible for speaking, thinking, moving and remembering among other things. Brain surgery is also done for treating underlying conditions within the brain or surrounding the brain without hindering other important functions of the body.

Who Does the Brain Surgery?

There is an entire team of highly trained medical professionals responsible for performing brain surgery led by a neurosurgeon along with an anesthesiologist, assistant surgeons/doctors and nurses.

What are the Types of Brain Surgery?

There are different types of brain surgery such as: craniotomy, stereotactic brain biopsy, endovascular surgery, neuro-endoscopy and surgery for placing electrodes for deep brain stimulation (1).

What to Expect Immediately After Brain Surgery?

After the brain surgery is done, the patient will be taken to the recovery room. The patient can also be kept in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital; it depends on the type of the brain surgery and circumstances surrounding it. The patient’s vital signs are closely monitored and the neurological status of the patient is also periodically checked by assessing the patient’s reflexes or testing the pupils’ reaction to the light (2).

Placement and Removal of Tubes, Drains and Drips

If a breathing tube was placed during the brain surgery, then it will be removed and this can cause temporary soreness or scratchiness in the throat.  The patient will also have drains and drips that are placed give fluids and medications to the patient and also to drain bodily fluids. These are gradually removed as the patient’s requirement goes down. 

The Surgical Dressing

A bandage or dressing will be wrapped around the head, which can be present for a few days. The surgical team will check the wound regularly to ensure that there are no signs of infection and that it is healing well.

What the patient will feel

Immediately after the surgery, there will be bruising or swelling around the eyes or face which will resolve slowly in some days. Post brain surgery, one can also experience pain, headaches and nausea; for which medications will be given. The strong pain killers are usually given immediately after surgery, which can cause constipation sometimes, in which case laxatives will be given.

Imaging Tests Post Brain Surgery

Imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI scan are done post brain surgery to check on the surgical site and to ensure that there are no complications like bleeding.

The Duration of Hospital Stay

The duration of hospital stay depends on the type of brain surgery and the recovery progress. The patient will be given a general idea of what they can expect before going into surgery. If the procedure is less invasive, then there will be a shorter hospital stay. For extensive surgical procedures, the hospital stay will be longer.

The American Cancer Society shows that patients undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor will need to stay in hospital for about 4 to 6 days (3).

Going Home after Brain Surgery

When the patient is ready to go home, they will be provided with instructions like:

When and how to take your medications including:

  • Medications for pain.
  • Corticosteroids for swelling.
  • Anti-seizure medications for preventing seizures.
  • Medications for constipation.
  • Caring for surgical wound.
  • What to do to prevent infection or blood clots at the surgical site.
  • The activities which the patient can and cannot do.

During the recovery process, the patient will be checked by the surgeon periodically and will have postoperative checkups continuing in the weeks and months after the surgery. In these checkups imaging or neurological tests will be done to assess the recovery and healing process. 

Rehabilitation after Brain Surgery

Most of the patients who have undergone brain surgery will also require some sort of rehabilitation and this can include working with any of the following professionals: occupational therapist, physical therapist and speech-language therapist.

Recovery Time after Brain Surgery

The time taken to completely recover from the brain surgery varies from patient to patient and also depends on the type of surgery. Recovery can take around 4 to 12 weeks in general; however, some patients may need longer time to recover.

Risks after Brain Surgery

Some of the common risks or complications, which can develop post brain surgery, are: nausea or vomiting, headaches, constipation and temporary balance problems.

Some of the serious complications, which can occur with brain surgery, are: infections, bleeding, blood clots, seizures and swelling of the brain.

There can be loss of brain function resulting in movement, coordination or balance problems; loss of memory; difficulty with speech and personality, mood or behavior changes.

When to call 911: Emergency services should be called upon if the following symptoms are seen:

Symptoms of INFECTION like: High fever; redness, warmth or swelling of surgical wound; fluid or pus oozing from the surgical site; nausea or vomiting that increases or worsens; neck stiffness and sensitivity to light.

Symptoms of a SERIOUS BLOOD CLOT which can consist of

  • Red, swollen or painful skin especially in the leg.
  • Severe headache.
  • Abrupt chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • Severe drowsiness or difficulty in waking up or staying awake.
  • Difficulty in walking or moving about.
  • Numbness or weakness in arms or legs.
  • Problem with communication or speech.
  • Memory problems or confusion.
  • Sudden changes in personality, mood or behavior.

Tips for Recovery and Healing After Brain Surgery

The hospital staff will provide detailed instructions about recovery to the patient which should be followed carefully. Always reach out in case of any concerns or questions.

Arrange for someone to help at home: After getting discharged, the patient will need assistance with various activities at home, so it is advisable to ask for help beforehand from a family member or friend who will stay at home and help the patient post brain surgery.

Get Plenty of Rest: For good brain health, it is important to get good quality sleep (4) by taking the following steps:

  • Relaxing before bed.
  • Maintaining a proper sleep schedule.
  • Making sure that the bedroom is dark, quiet and at comfortable temperature.

Following a Healthy Diet: There are certain diets, which are associated with improved brain health, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, the Mediterranean diet and the Mediterranean-DASH (MIND) diet (5). Stay away from foods which trigger inflammation, such as red and processed meats, foods with added sugar and foods high in trans-fats and saturated fats.

Stay Active: It is recommended to start physical activity as soon as the patient is able, as it is considered beneficial for the health of the brain (6). Strenuous activities should be avoided and the activity levels should be gradually increased.

Exercise the Brain Also: It is important that the brain also stays active and this can be achieved by mentally stimulating activities, such as solving puzzles, playing board or card games, reading and listening to music.

What is the Outlook and Success Rates of Brain Surgery?

Brain surgery helps in tackling problems, which can potentially cause significant mortality or morbidity, such as blood clots, brain tumors and aneurysms. Brain surgery is safer than before thanks to the recent advances in medical technology; however, as with any surgery, there are always some risks and complications, which the patient should be made aware of.

A study from 2020 done on 100 adults showed that about 41% of them had some form of neurological difficulty, such as difficulties with speech or movement post brain tumor surgery (7). However, after three months, these problems continued in only 6% of the patients who underwent brain surgery (7).

Rehabilitation is also extremely important for good recovery post brain surgery and should not be ignored. There are numerous studies showing the functional benefits of rehabilitation programs after undergoing brain surgery (8, 9).


The outcome and expectations of brain surgery depends on the type of surgery and also the general health of the patient. Brain surgery can help in treating, curing and managing various health conditions that reduce the quality of life or could be fatal if not treated. Even though brain surgery is safer than before, it does carry some risks and complications, as with any other surgery and they can also consist of potentially long term difficulties with brain function. Always discuss the risks and benefits of the surgery beforehand with your surgeon.


Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 1, 2024

Recent Posts

Related Posts