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. This swelling should go down within 48 hours and the bruising within a few days. Sometimes a swelling filled with fluid develops under the operation scar. This may take longer but will go down over time.

Drips and drains

You may have a drip (infusion) into a vein in your arm to keep you hydrated and replace fluids you may have lost. A nurse will remove it once you are drinking and eating properly.

There may be a tube coming from your wound to drain blood or fluid into a bottle. This is usually removed a day or two after the surgery.

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

You may also have a tube called a catheter to drain urine from your bladder. It is usually taken out when you start to move about more.

Pain

You may have a headache when you wake up after the operation. The nurses will give you regular painkillers until it gets better. Headaches usually settle over a few days. Always tell your nurse or doctor if you have pain or if the pain starts to get worse.

Moving around

You will be encouraged to get out of bed as soon as you feel able. This is important to help prevent chest infections and blood clots. It also helps with your recovery. A physiotherapist or nurse will help you get moving if needed.

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 seven to ten days, they will 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

When you go home and how quickly you recover depends on the type of operation you had. Your healthcare team may include physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists who will help with your recovery, if needed. They can also help you plan going home and arrange any further support you might need.

You will still be recovering when you leave hospital. Remember to take things slowly and follow the advice from your healthcare team. Contact the hospital straight away if you have any problems or new symptoms such as:

  • a fever (high temperature)
  • redness, swelling or leaking from your wound
  • feeling or being sick
  • feeling very drowsy
  • weakness in your arms or legs
  • problems with speech
  • a seizure.

You will be very tired for several weeks or longer. For a few people, this may last a year or more. Getting enough rest and eating healthily will help you recover. Try to balance rest with taking some gentle exercise, such as regular short walks. This will help give you more energy and you can build it up gradually.

Your surgeon and healthcare team will tell you what to expect and how you can help with your own recovery. It is a good idea to make an appointment to see your GP when you go home. They can give you advice and support, and make sure you are recovering well. You will come back to the hospital a few weeks after your operation for a check-up. We have more information on recovering after treatment.

Back to Surgery explained

When is surgery used?

Surgery can be used to remove all or part of the tumour or to give chemotherapy into the brain.

Biopsy

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

Craniotomy

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

Having your operation

A team of healthcare professionals will help you before and after surgery for a brain tumour.

Shunts

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.