When it comes to brain surgery, there are a number of different techniques surgeons can use to access the brain and provide their patient with the best care. A craniotomy, a craniectomy and a cranioplasty are just three of the common operations a neurosurgeon can use, and while they all sound the same, they involve different techniques. Below, we take a closer look at the similarities and differences between these three common procedures, and we explain why one operation may be best for your situation.
Craniotomy vs. Craniectomy vs. Cranioplasty
Each of these procedures involves the cranium (skull), but their specific methods and ultimate goals are different. Here’s a quick overview of each.
Craniotomy – In a craniotomy, the neurosurgeon removes a small part of the skull in order to access the brain. Following the operation, the piece of the skull is replaced and secured with titanium plates and screws. This styled approach is often used to help the surgeon operate on brain tumors, vascular malformations and others brain conditions were swelling isn’t as prominent of a concern.
Craniectomy – This procedure is very similar to the craniotomy, except that after the problem is addressed, the piece of the skull that was removed is not immediately reattached. This type of approach is more commonly used for traumatic brain injuries and other head injuries where swelling is a concern. Leaving the portion of the skull removed will help to relieve pressure and keep certain areas from becoming compressed.
Cranioplasty – A cranioplasty is similar to the above two approaches, but this technique is typically used when the portion of the skull that is being removed is damaged or cancerous. Instead of putting the skull piece back in place after the operation, synthetic materials are used. Titanium, acrylic or a synthetic bone substitute may be used to create a replacement piece that is then installed by the neurosurgeon.
As you can see, each procedure is used to address different types of issues in the brain, and each procedure offers some unique benefits. For example, a craniotomy is beneficial because no secondary procedure is needed; everything can be completed in one procedure and no synthetic materials are needed. A unique benefit of a craniectomy is that it can provide pressure relief in an emergency situation, potentially saving a life. Finally, one unique benefit of a cranioplasty is that the synthetic bone piece can help restore the natural contour of your skull and provide a more aesthetic appeal if cancer or trauma has caused the skull to become misshapen.
For more information about each procedure, or to consult with a neurosurgeon about your health condition, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.