Brain surgery


A craniotomy is an operation that involves a neurosurgeon temporarily removing a portion of the skull so they can access the brain to treat a condition affecting the brain or related anatomy. The word “cranio” means skull bone and “tomy” means a surgical incision.

To access the brain and surrounding structures, a neurosurgeon will shave a thin strip of hair from a patient’s scalp where they need to make an incision. Once they have cut through the scalp, they will remove a piece of skull bone with specialised equipment such as a high-speed drill and saw.

A neurosurgeon will then open the protective layer of the brain called the dura (located underneath the bone) to access the brain and do the neurosurgical procedure. After the neurosurgeon completes this procedure, they will place the bone back and secure it using titanium implants.

There are different types of craniotomies, each involving the removal of different parts of the skull bone. The type of craniotomy done mainly depends on someone’s condition and where it’s located. However, the underlying principles and techniques of a craniotomy stay the same.

A craniotomy allows a neurosurgeon to do the following:

  • repair aneurysms
  • remove brain tumours or abnormal brain tissue
  • treat brain injuries such as concussion and other trauma
  • treat blood clots
  • treat infections
  • alleviate pressure caused by stroke
  • treat brain swelling
  • treat epilepsy
  • take a brain tissue sample for pathologists to diagnose a potential problem.
  • treat skull fractures
  • treat skull malformations


Sources: Neurosurgical Society of Australasia (Craniotomy) Victorian Government Better Health Channel (Craniotomy), National Library of Medicine (Anatomy, head and neck, dura mater).