The prospect of having brain surgery can be frightening. We encourage you to ask your neurosurgeon questions. Information can lessen anxiety by reducing fear of the "unknown." In addition, a better understanding of your problem can help you make more informed and therefore, better decisions. We will help you regain a sense of control and cope with a situation that may seem to be moving too fast.
Your neurosurgeon may ask you to see your internist (or a specialist such as a cardiologist) in order to get "medically cleared" for surgery. The intent is to reduce the risk of anesthesia by identifying and optimally treating medical conditions. For patients with a history of heart problems or who may be at increased risk of a heart attack, this may involve specific tests to assess the blood flow to the heart.
In order to reduce the risk of bleeding during or immediately following brain surgery, it is important to tell your neurosurgeon if you are taking any medications that thin the blood (anticoagulants) or if you have a natural tendency for bleeding (hemophilia). Always tell your neurosurgeon if you take aspirin (even baby aspirin) because in most cases aspirin should be stopped at least 8 days prior to surgery. Other medications, including herbs, vitamins, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as Motrin, may also have to be stopped prior to surgery.
Although the chances of a serious complication are usually low with most brain surgeries, surgery of any type carries risks. Consider having a discussion with family members about your wishes in the event something unexpected occurs and you are not able to make decisions for yourself. Ideally, all patients having surgery of any kind should have a Living Will or Advance Directive completed prior to undergoing the surgical procedure. Your primary care doctor may be a good resource for advice.
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