What is recovery after craniotomy like?

Posted by dp9 @dp9, May 17, 2023

A loved one is having craniotomy at Mayo Minnesota on June 9th. I have anxiety disorder, also cerebral palsy, and am terrified about what recovery is like - we live in Michigan.. As long as there are no complications, how long does it take for patients to be allowed to drive again? We have a Disney cruise planned for December- is that realistic ?
Any other experiences with what to expect with recovery would be welcome- I have 0 experiences, and am terrified of the whole recovery process- what to expect- how long it takes etc.
It’s interesting- the tumor is believed to be benign- and the chemo and radiation after will take care of it, but the actual surgery terrifies me.

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Hello, d.p.9. I can share my craniotomy recovery with you, but have no idea on whether it is typical. In short, based on my experience, I don’t think the surgery is something to be terrified about, and I would think that the December cruise is on the table, but I would recommend trip insurance. In 2018, I had a craniotomy on August 9, exactly 2 months later into the year than your loved one. During that summer, as my surgery date neared, I just wanted to get it over with and at the same time, I dreaded the date arriving. My 13-hr surgery did go smoothly without complications and, for the most part, was pain free. I was that prescribed Keppra, probably for life, to ward off further seizures. I did not recognize beforehand of the requirement for various therapies afterward, including physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. By late November, I had completed all of these. Regarding driving, at the time of my meningioma diagnosis in May 2018, I was told by the neurosurgeon that I should not drive. No one confiscated my license and I was not suspended. It was completely on the honor system, and I complied. After surgery, I discussed with my physical therapy doctor and opthamologist how best to regain my driving privileges. I was advised to take the DMV’s written and practical driving tests again, like when I was a teenager getting my first license. I did retake these tests in mid-December, passed with flying colors, and was endorsed by the State to resume driving again, which I did, using my original license. I also walked a 5 km road race just before Christmas that year. So, if the recovery of your loved one follows my schedule, they could be driving again in mid-October. But, as I said, I do not know if my recovery timeline is typical. I hope this eases your mind some, and please don’t let fear overcome you. Think of the benefits that your loved one will realize from the surgery, as I did. I wish you all the best of luck and good health.


Hi, d.p.9. I can share my craniotomy recovery with you, but have no idea on whether it is typical. I feel the craniotomy was the easiest part of my glioblastoma journey thus far. I had craniotomy and total tumor resection January 26 and went home January 29. It was a 10 hour surgery. I had seizures pre surgery so my driving restriction was based on that and not the actual surgery. Post surgery I had physical restrictions to avoid cranial pressure but not much else. Your medical team is your best resource on what is possible post surgery. I agree with others that based on my experience, I don’t think the surgery is something to be terrified by; it sounds worse than it is. It was not particularly painful for the most part. I didn’t require any post surgery rehabilitation. The question around your travel will more likely be affected by post surgery treatment. We will always buy trip insurance and MedJet Assist coverage going forward when we travel. Best wishes to you and your loved one on your journey.


Hi d.p.9. - I recently underwent a craniotomy on Feb 2nd for a oligodendroglioma located in my right frontal lobe. My surgery only lasted about 4 hours and had very minimal pain afterwards. I was discharged from the hospital on Sunday Feb 4th. I had 2 weeks of driving restrictions after surgery and 6 weeks of no lifting anything over 10 lbs. I slept a lot and still notice some memory lapses. For instance I don't remember anything the day of the surgery or the day after the surgery. I also have anxiety and figured that was just my bodies way of blocking any trauma. Overall I feel like it was a fairly uneventful surgery. After speaking with my care team, I believe all of these surgeries are very individualized. Depending on the type of tumor and location of the tumor. I wish your friend the best of luck and outcome with their craniotomy.


Thanks for your responses. They REALLY help me not be afraid.
The doctor says more than likely the tumor is benign, and there shouldn’t be any need for therapy- other than chemo and radiation.

Thanks for sharing your recovery experiences- I guess everyone is different. The doctor has given our own timeline. You’re right- best to listen to the medical team.
But to now have heard from former patients the general recovery experience is REALLY helpful.

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