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A 41-year-old man with no significant past medical history presents with tinnitus, vertigo, and right-sided unilateral hearing loss that has worsened over the past year. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrates a 3-cm tumor in the right cerebellopontine (CP) angle. He undergoes a right retrosigmoid craniotomy, and the tumor is completely resected. His intraoperative course is uncomplicated, and he is transferred to the neurologic intensive care unit (NeuroICU). On postoperative day 6, the patient complains of worsening headache and neck stiffness. On examination, the patient is febrile to 102.1°F, and there is drainage of clear, watery substance from his right ear. Neurologic examination is notable for meningismus. Computed tomography (CT) scan is negative for hematoma in the cerebellopontine angle, and there is mild ventricular enlargement.

What are the indications for a craniotomy?

A craniotomy is a common neurosurgical procedure in which a bone flap is removed from the skull in order to access certain regions of the brain or overlying meninges. Among cranial procedures, which represent roughly a third of neurosurgery, craniotomies are performed in approximately half of the cases. Craniotomies may be performed in a number of locations (eg, pterional, suboccipital, frontal) to treat a wide variety of intracranial conditions (Table 26-1), including cerebrovascular lesions and brain tumors and for implantation of hardware (eg, cerebrospinal fluid shunts (CSF) or deep brain stimulators).

Table 26-1.Common Indications for a Craniotomy

What complications occur after a craniotomy?

A variety of complications affect up to 1 in 4 patients undergoing a craniotomy1, and these may be related to the craniotomy itself, specific to the condition being treated, or to hospitalization in general. Complications that may occur after most craniotomies (Table 26-2) include neurologic complications (eg, intracranial hemorrhage, seizures), medical complications (eg, blood pressure derangements, cardiac events), infection (eg, pneumonia, meningitis), and general surgical complications ...

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