What to expect after surgery
You will be closely monitored for the first 12–24 hours after the operation. You may stay in hospital for 3–10 days. How long you stay in hospital will depend on whether you have any problems or side effects following surgery. You may also require rehabilitation.
For the first day or two you will be in the intensive care unit or a high dependency unit. Nurses will regularly check your breathing, pulse, blood pressure, temperature, pupil size, and arm and leg strength and function.
You will also be asked questions to assess your level of consciousness. These neurological observations check how your brain and body are recovering from surgery.
Spinal cord checks
If you have had an operation on your spinal cord, the nurses will regularly check the movement and sensation in your arms and legs. You may need to lie flat in bed for 2–5 days to allow the wound to heal. A physiotherapist will help you learn how to roll over and how to get out of bed safely, so the wound is not damaged.
You will need to wear pressure stockings on your legs to prevent blood clots from forming while you are recovering from surgery. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have pain or swelling in your legs or suddenly have difficulty breathing.
Bandages and bruising
The dressing on your head may vary from a simple bandaid to bandaging that covers your whole head. Some or all of your head may have been shaved. After surgery to certain parts of the head, your face and eyes may be swollen or bruised: this is normal. It is not usually painful and should ease within about a week.
Having a shunt
A build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain is called hydrocephalus. It may occur before surgery as a result of the tumour, but can also happen after surgery. To drain the extra fluid you may have a shunt. The surgeon places one end of a long, thin tube into your brain.
A temporary tube (called an external ventricular drain, or EVD) drains fluid into a bag on the outside of the body. A permanent shunt is inserted completely inside your body. It drains into your abdomen and the fluid is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Headaches and nausea
You may have a headache or nausea after the operation. Both can be treated with medicines.
A/Prof Andrew Davidson, Neurosurgeon, Macquarie University Hospital, NSW; Dr Lucy Gately, Medical Oncologist, Oncology Clinics Victoria, and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, VIC; Melissa Harrison, Allied Health Manager and Senior Neurological Physiotherapist, Advance Rehab Centre, NSW; Scott Jones, Consumer; Anne King, Neurology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Health Department, WA; Dr Toni Lindsay, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Allied Health Manager, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Elissa McVey, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Claire Phillips, Deputy Director, Radiation Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC.
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