You’ve heard the saying “at least it isn’t brain surgery,” implying the process is complicated and intricate. This is true, but over the years a lot of progress has been made in medical technology and surgical instrumentation. So while it is still a complicated process, it doesn’t have to be scary.
There are numerous types of brain surgery procedures, depending on the condition being treated.
A brain tumor is a mass of tissue that forms by an accumulation of abnormal cells in one location. As cells age, they typically die and get replaced by new cells. Tumors form when something disrupts this cycle so that the cells grow instead of die. As the process continues, new cells are added to the mass and the tumor continues to grow.
Not all brain tumors are cancerous. The ones that are malignant typically grow faster than benign tumors and can spread to other parts of the brain and central nervous system.
Brain tumor symptoms vary according to the type and location of the tumor. However, headaches are usually one of the first symptoms experienced. Other symptoms include:
Regardless of whether the tumor is benign or malignant, it’s important that it be removed, if at all possible. Brain tumors can damage the cells around them by causing inflammation and putting increased pressure on the tissue under and around it as well as inside the skull. For those tumors that can’t be surgically removed due to their location in the brain, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be options for killing or shrinking the tumor. These therapies are also sometimes recommended after surgery on malignant tumors to kill any remaining cancer cells.
If you receive a hard blow to the head, it’s very important that you seek emergency treatment immediately, even if you don’t have any immediate symptoms. The same holds true if the blow is not hard but produces bleeding, loss of consciousness, severe headache, repeated vomiting, confusion, loss of balance, weakness in an arm or leg, unequal pupil size, slurred speech or seizure.
This is because you may have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI is a blow to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.
Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the brain. A person with a mild TBI may remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes. Other symptoms of mild TBI include:
A person with a moderate or severe TBI may show these same symptoms, but may also present additional symptoms that can include:
Emergency surgery is called for if a blood clot is found within the brain or on its surface, or a cerebral contusion (bruising of brain tissue), compressing the brain or increasing pressure within the skill.
Dr. Wirchansky will perform surgery to remove any blood clots found. Since contusions or hematomas may enlarge over the first hours or days after the incident, they will be closely monitored and surgery performed at that time.
Often referred to as “water on the brain,” hydrocephalus is caused by the accumulation of excessive fluid in the brain area. This fluid is actually cerebrospinal fluid, a clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. When an excessive accumulation occurs, this causes potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain.
Hydrocephalus can be present at birth or caused by traumatic injury or diseases such as meningitis and cancer. Symptoms in infants include an unusually large head size, vomiting, sleepiness, and seizures. Older children and adults may experience headaches, vomiting, nausea, vision problems, balance and coordination disturbances, urinary incontinence, and personality or cognitive changes.
Dr. Wirchansky treats hydrocephalus with the surgical placement of a shunt system, which relieves pressure on the brain by diverting the cerebral spinal fluid to another part of the body where it can be absorbed as part of the normal circulatory process.