Saturday, March 21, 2015

Craniotomy vs. Craniectomy

Amy Shissler
My Cerebellar Stroke Recovery
November 21, 2012

Recently I was asked about my brain surgery.  I had a craniectomy.  Actually my surgery was called a Decompressive Craniectomy.  But I said the word ‘craniotomy’ when I was asked about it.  I figure I got it mixed up, so I bet other people do too.  Otomy means opening.  Ectomy means removal.  So they open the skull in a craniotomy, and remove a part of the skull in a craniectomy.  It’s basically the same surgery, the end is just different.  A piece of skull is removed to allow access to the brain.  The difference is that in a craniotomy the doctors do what they need to do and then that piece of bone is replaced.  In a craniectomy, that bone is not replaced because of all of the swelling.  Sometimes in a craniectomy that bone is replaced later on, but not in my case.  That bone will never be replaced.  I used to be really, really freaked out by this.  I thought it meant my brain was just exposed.  It’s not.  They did the craniectomy in a spot where the muscle covering my brain is like an inch thick.  It’s still weird, but I’m not freaked out by it anymore.  Sometimes however, it hurts when people give me a hug in the wrong spot and squeeze.  If I hug someone our arms have to be low, it’s weird, I hate hugging like a normal person.  I always say to my friend Mandy, well “back when I was normal…..”  This makes her laugh.  I do what I can.  I’m not sure what this means and I’m not sure I want to know.  I don’t know why it hurts sometimes and have never asked anyone.  I don’t want to hear something like “because your brain has pressure on it.”  I’m better off not knowing the reason.  I have read that craniectomies are often the source of more headaches because the theory is that those muscles are working a lot harder since there is no longer bone there.  I’m not sure if I really believe this is the reason for more headaches, but whatever.  Good thing I know what I know about posture and headaches.

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