Treating Blood Clots in the Brain

If you’ve been told that you need to undergo an operation on a blood clot in your brain, you probably have a lot of questions about the procedure and your recovery. Although each surgery will have its own unique method, there are some general guidelines for how these clots are addressed and how the patient can expect to recover after the operation. We take a closer look at what blood clot neurosurgery hopes to achieve and what recovery may be like in today’s blog.

Blood Clots in the Brain

Blood clots in the brain typically develop as a result of trauma, either from a significant blow to the head or smaller, repetitive trauma over time. Your risk of a brain blood clot increases as you get older because your brain actually shrinks a bit over time, but your skull remains the same size. This creates more space between your brain and the skull, or more room to move if your head gets jostled. The more room for movement, the easier it is to tear a blood vessel, which would then bleed and clot.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a blood clot in the brain, there are generally two surgical treatments that are recommended, the burr hole drainage and a craniotomy.

Burr Hole Drainage – In this procedure, the neurosurgeon creates one or two small holes in the skull and an incision in the dura if needed, in order to drain the clot. Once the clot has been drained, the incision is closed using sutures.

Craniotomy – If the surgeon needs a larger space in order to drain the clot, a craniotomy may be performed. During a craniotomy, the neurosurgeon removes a section of the skull in order to access the clot. The clot is then drained, and the section of the skull is secured back in place.

Recovering After Blood Clot Surgery

Recovery after blood clot brain surgery will depend on a number of factors, including your age, overall health and the reason why the clot developed in the first place. However, if you follow the doctor’s instructions and your recovery guidelines, you can improve your chances of making a full recovery.

After a burr hole drainage procedure, most patients will spend 2-3 days in an intensive care unit or recovery ward. You may experience some discomfort, tiredness or headaches during this time, but your doctor can prescribe medications to help with these symptoms. After a couple of days, you will be discharged from the surgical center and allowed to continue your recovery at home. At home, rehabilitation will include a lot of rest and lifting/exercise restrictions for a couple of weeks.

Recovering after a craniotomy may take a little longer since it is a more invasive procedure. You can expect to spend 3-5 days in the recovery ward before being discharged to your home. There, you can expect up to 12 weeks of activity restrictions that will gradually increase as your body heals. If you feel that your recovery timeline needs to be adjusted, consult with your doctor before making any changes on your own. Your neurosurgeon will be happy to ensure your recovery stays on track.

For more information about blood clots in the brain, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office.

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