Review a list of questions and answers that patients have about their brain tumor surgery.


What should I bring to my consultation with the neurosurgeon?

If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumor and are meeting with a Penn neurosurgeon for a consultation, please bring any and all brain images with report.

If you had prior surgery and are meeting with a Penn neurosurgeon, please bring pre-op MRI along with most recent MRI and pathology report (including slides, if possible). 

If you had chemotherapy or radiation and are meeting with a Penn neurosurgeon, please bring notes from the oncologist and the radiation planning MRI on a disc.


If surgery is scheduled to remove my brain tumor, do I need pre-testing?

Yes, if surgery is scheduled. This will be discussed at the history and physical appointment with the nurse practitioner before surgery.

Do I continue to take my medications prior to surgery?

This depends on which medications you are on and will be discussed at your history and physical appointment with the nurse practitioner before surgery.

On the night before surgery, can I eat and drink?

Detailed instructions are usually given on the pre-anesthesia visit, but as a general rule you should not eat or drink after midnight. You may have a light snack before midnight so you will be less hungry on the morning of surgery. You may drink water up until 2 hours before the scheduled arrival time on the day of the surgery.

Day of Surgery

Where do I check in the morning of surgery?

You will check in on the 4th floor of the Ravdin building, Pre-Op Department, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Who will perform my surgery and how long will it take?

Your neurosurgeon along with the Chief Resident (7th and final year of residency) will perform your surgery. It could take up to 3-5 hours if you are having a regular craniotomy. If you have an awake craniotomy, the surgery could take 5-7 hours. This includes pre op, peri op and post op. 

The number one post-op concern for patients undergoing brain surgery is neurologic function. Your surgeon will talk with you and ask you questions to see if you can follow simple commands, such as holding up two fingers or wiggling your toes. For this reason, it is our goal that you be awake as quickly as possible after surgery so we can monitor your neurologic function. 

Will I have a lot of pain afterwards? If so, how will it be managed?

Pain is usually minimal since there are only a small number of pain nerve endings in the head. Nevertheless, you may experience headaches and other tenderness in the area that was affected. This can be treated with non-narcotic medications such as Tylenol and when necessary, narcotic medications such as Percocet or Morphine. Your care team will give you pain medication through your IV until you can tolerate taking pills.

When can my family see me?

After surgery, you'll recover in the PACU (Post Anesthesia Care Unit) and then transferred to the Neuro ICU where your family can see you.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Usual length of stay for patients who undergo a craniotomy for a brain tumor, with no complications, is two nights, three hospital days. Patients who have postoperative difficulties may be required to stay longer.


What should I expect after discharge?

A majority of patients who undergo brain tumor surgery feel surprisingly well afterward. However, you will be restricted to 4 weeks of non-strenuous activity. This includes:

  • No heavy lifting >5-10 lbs for 4 weeks
  • No pushing while moving bowels for 4 weeks
  • No strenuous activities such as working out or running

When should I call the doctor?

If you experience any of the symptoms below, please call your doctor immediately:

  • Any fever greater than 101.5
  • Any new weakness in arms or legs
  • Change of mental status
  • Any seizure activity
  • Any drainage coming out of the incision
  • Worsening headache unrelieved by any medication
  • Increased swelling/redness at incision site
  • Pain/redness in leg(s)
  • New confusion or increase in confusion
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