What happens after surgery?

After surgery the doctors and nurses will monitor you carefully. You may be in an intensive care ward for a day or so.

You may have a drip to give you fluids until you’re drinking properly. There may be a tube draining blood or fluid from your wound.

The nurses will give you painkillers to make sure you aren’t in pain. They’ll help you to get out of bed and move around as soon as possible.

Your wound may be covered with a dressing. The nurses check it regularly and after a week or so they remove the stitches. How long you are in hospital for will depend on the operation you had and your recovery.

It’s important to take things slowly when you get home. Contact the hospital immediately if you have any problems. You’ll be very tired for several weeks or longer. Try to balance rest with gentle exercise such as short walks. Some people may need more help with their recovery, for example from a physiotherapist or occupational therapist.

After your operation

When you wake up, you may be in the intensive care ward or high-dependency unit for about 24 hours. Or you may go back to the neurosurgical ward straight away. The doctors and nurses will monitor you carefully.

They will do neurological checks such as testing your reflexes and seeing how your eyes react to light. They will also take your temperature and blood pressure.

Your face and eyes may be swollen and bruised. The swelling should go down within 48 hours and the bruising within a few days. Some people may have a swelling filled with fluid in the area over the operation scar. This is called a meningocele and will go down over time.

Drips and drains

You may also have a drip (infusion) going into a vein in your arm. This is to replace any fluids you may have lost and keep you hydrated. A nurse will remove it when you’re able to eat and drink properly.

There may be a tube coming from the wound to drain blood or fluid into a bottle. It’s usually removed within a day or two.

Some people have a tube that goes up the nose and down into the stomach. This is called a nasogastric tube. It’s used to remove fluid from the stomach to stop you being sick.

You may also have a tube put into your bladder to drain urine from it. This is called a catheter and is usually taken out in a few days.


You may have a headache when you wake up after the operation. The nurses will give you regular painkillers until it gets better. It’s unusual to get a lot of pain after surgery to the brain. Always tell your nurse or doctor if you’re in pain or if the pain starts to get worse.

Moving around

You may be in bed for a day or so after the operation. While you’re in bed, it’s important to move your legs regularly and do deep breathing exercises. This helps prevent chest infections and blood clots. A physiotherapist or nurse will show you how to do these exercises. The nurses will help you to get out of bed and encourage you to start moving around as soon as possible.

Your wound

The wound on your head may be covered with a dressing or bandage for the first few days. The nurses will check it regularly to make sure it is healing well. After about 7–10 days, they remove your staples or stitches. This can be done at the hospital or at home by a district nurse. If dissolving stitches were used, these won’t need to be removed.

Recovery and going home

How quickly you recover will depend on the type of operation you’ve had. Some people may need extra help during their recovery.

The nurses will talk to you and your family about the support you’ll be offered when you go home. It’s important to take things slowly and follow the advice from your specialist doctor or nurse. Contact the hospital straight away if you have any problems or new symptoms. This can include:

  • a fever (high temperature)
  • problems with your wound such as redness, swelling or a discharge
  • vomiting, drowsiness, weakness in your limbs, problems with speech or a seizure.

You will be very tired for several weeks or longer. Occasionally this may last up to a year or more. It’s important to rest and eat healthily to help with your recovery. Balance rest with some gentle exercise, such as regular short walks. This will give you more energy.

Your specialist doctor and nurse will tell you what to expect in the next few weeks and what you can do to help with your recovery. It’s a good idea to make an appointment to see your GP when you go home. They can give you support and make sure you’re recovering well. You’ll come back to the hospital a few weeks after your operation for a check-up.

Back to Surgery explained


A biopsy consists in removing and examining a small piece of tissue. It’s used to identify the tumour’s type.


The surgeon removes all or as much as possible of the brain tumour with an operation called a craniotomy.


A shunt is a thin tube that drains extra fluid away from the brain to relieve raised intracranial pressure.

What happens before surgery?

To prepare for your operation, you’ll have some tests and may be given steroids. If you smoke, try to give up or cut down.

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.