Before brain surgery, you’ll have a preoperative assessment and a variety of preoperative tests. You may also need to take or stop taking certain medications. Other aspects of preparation involve instructions on food, drink, and hygiene.

Brain surgery refers to any type of surgical procedure that’s done on your brain. There are many reasons why a person may need brain surgery. Some examples include:

If brain surgery is recommended for you, it’s normal for many questions to come to mind. Below, we’ll explore what to expect as you prepare for brain surgery.

What’s a craniotomy?

Many brain surgeries involve a craniotomy. During a craniotomy, a surgeon removes part of your skull in order to access the brain.

The removed part of the skull, called the bone flap, is typically held on the surgical instrument table during the surgery and replaced after the surgery has concluded.

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Before your surgery, you’ll undergo a preoperative assessment. This may be done in person, over the telephone, or via a video call. During your preoperative assessment, you’ll discuss things such as:

  • your medical history, which includes what other health conditions you have
  • the types of neurological symptoms you’re experiencing, including:
    • how often they occur
    • how severe they are
    • how they’re managed
  • the types of and dosages of any medications, both prescription and over the counter (OTC), and supplements

You’ll need to have preoperative tests as well. The goal of these tests is to evaluate your overall health and find any factors that could lead to risks during your surgery. Examples of preoperative tests that may be done include:

Before your brain surgery, you may be asked to stop taking some medications and supplements. Additionally, the surgeon may prescribe certain medications to take before your procedure.

Medications and supplements to stop taking

The surgeon will review all medications and supplements you’re taking and will instruct you on what to stop taking before your surgery and when.

These instructions are individualized based on the surgeon’s review. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully.

One big category of medications you’ll be asked to stop taking are those that increase the risk of bleeding during your operation. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, and blood thinners.

Other medications that you may be asked to stop include diabetes medications and some psychiatric medications.

Certain supplements can also interact with anesthetics or increase the risk of bleeding during your operation. These include:

Medications to start taking

The surgeon may also ask you to start taking specific medications before your surgery. These are aimed at helping to prevent risks during or after your operation.

Some examples of medications you may be prescribed before brain surgery include:


If you smoke, you’ll also be asked to stop. Smoking can affect the function of your heart and lungs as well as slow healing. Your care team can help support you in developing a plan you can stick to.

There are several things to be aware of regarding your hospital admission. Let’s looks at these now.

Food and drink

The surgeon will ask you to fast before your surgery. This is so that you don’t vomit while in a state of nonfeeling called anesthesia.

Fasting usually involves not eating and only drinking water after midnight on the night before your surgery. You may also be asked to stop drinking water after a certain time the morning of your surgery.


Before you go to the hospital, you’ll be instructed to bathe or shower. It’s possible that the surgeon may request that you use a special antimicrobial soap containing chlorhexidine gluconate.

After you’ve bathed or showered, avoid putting on any skin care products, such as lotions or makeup.

Hospital admission time

You’ll typically be admitted to the hospital the day of your operation. But if you need more tests or assessments beforehand, you may be admitted the day before. Be sure to organize transportation to and from the hospital ahead of time.

After admission

After admission, you’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown. You’ll also wear surgical stockings that prevent you from getting blood clots in your legs during your operation.

You’ll also meet with the surgeon. They’ll go over the procedure again and also get your consent to perform the operation.

The anesthesiologist will then meet with you to talk about the anesthetics that will be used. There are two types of anesthetics that may be used: general and awake.

Items to consider taking to the hospital

You’ll be instructed to bring some things, such as a photo ID and your health insurance card, with you to the hospital. But you may be wondering what else to pack. Below are a few ideas:

  • comfortable clothes, including:
    • pajamas
    • day clothes
    • clean underwear
  • toiletries like:
    • a brush or comb
    • a toothbrush and toothpaste
    • deodorant
    • shampoo and conditioner
    • pads or tampons
  • medications you typically take
  • eyeglasses or contact lenses with their case
  • a blanket that you usually use at home
  • an eye mask and earplugs
  • books and magazines
  • electronic devices (if permitted) and their charging cables
  • a notebook and pen
  • healthy drinks and snacks
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You’ll be put into anesthesia during your surgery. General anesthesia means that you’ll be in a state of nonfeeling and unawareness during your operation. Awake anesthesia means that you’ll be awake and sedated (in a relaxed state), and the surgical site will be numbed so you don’t feel pain.

Awake anesthetics are used when operating near important areas of the brain and help to avoid damaging these areas. If this anesthetic is used, you’ll be asked to do simple tasks during your operation, such as moving a body part or counting backward.

The exact length of your surgery and the length of your hospital stay will depend on the type of procedure you’re having. Other factors, such as your age and overall health, may also play a role.

The surgeon will discuss what to expect as far as timing before your surgery. The operating room staff will also keep your family updated both during and after your operation.

Learn what to expect after brain surgery.

There are many reasons why you may need brain surgery. Preparation for your operation involves preoperative assessments and tests as well as lifestyle changes like adjusting medications and quitting smoking.

Before your admission, you’ll also be given instructions on food and drink, hygiene, and when to arrive at the hospital. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully.

The specifics of preparation for brain surgery can vary from person to person. If you ever have any questions or concerns about preparation, be sure to raise them to your medical care team.