What To Do Before Image Guided Brain Surgery

The words brain tumor and brain surgery can be scary and preparing for surgery can be overwhelming. The more you learn about the procedure the more prepared you will feel on the day of your surgery.

If you and your doctor have decided that brain surgery is the right option for you, you will meet with your doctor and perhaps other members of the surgical staff to discuss your operation. During the meeting, you may have another physical exam, have pre-operative lab work done, which may consist of blood tests and X-Rays to determine your overall health. Your age and the type of surgery being performed will determine the amount of blood work and X-Rays that will be needed. Pre-operative lab work is typically completed a few days before your surgery.

Your doctor may decide that additional diagnostic images of your brain and tumor are needed, especially if image guided surgery will be used. These images will help define the exact location, size and orientation of your brain tumor. There are several types of scans that your doctor may use to help gather these images:

  • Computerized Tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS)
  • Perfusion MRI
  • Position Emission Tomography (PET)

Functional imaging scans may also be taken to help your doctor plan your surgical procedure. These scans, called functional MRIs, echo-planar MRIs, or ultrafast or BOLD MRIs, are scans that are taken while you are speaking, writing, or moving. These brain scans can help further pinpoint the important areas of your brain that are responsible for your speech and movement.

These areas can also be found with brain mapping during surgery. With brain mapping, tiny electrodes are placed on the outer layer of the brain. Your neurosurgeon can then stimulate the electrodes to determine the parts of your brain responsible for your speech and movement. Brain mapping helps your neurosurgeon avoid these areas.

Your doctor may also use Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) MRIs. These MRIs will create a roadmap of your nerves, which is called fiber tracking. This map may help your surgeon avoid important nerve connections within your brain.

Your role in this journey is very important and proper preparation will go a long way in helping make the surgery go as planned.

Your doctor or nurse may ask you several questions during this pre-operative meeting1:

  • If you are pregnant
  • If you are currently taking drugs – prescription drugs, vitamins, supplements, herbs or recreational drugs should all be discussed with your doctor
  • The amount of alcohol you have been drinking
  • If you take aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen
  • Any allergies you may have to medications or iodine

If you have any questions that you did not already get answered, you may ask them now:

  • How long will my brain surgery last?
  • How early do I need to arrive for my procedure?
  • How much of my hair will be shaved?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • How long before my other treatments begin (like radiation therapy)?

1 http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003018.htm

Having a clear picture of your brain surgery and the recovery period will better help you prepare and aid in your recovery.