Cranioplasty is a reconstructive surgical procedure to repair a defect in the skull, either by restoring the original piece of skull or using a graft made of another material. Skull defects are usually the result of trauma, congenital anomalies. Surgery is suggested to remove tumors or relieve pressure on the brain.

Cranioplasty is recommended to protect vulnerable areas of the brain, improve brain function, reduce symptoms such as headaches and epilepsy, as well as restore cosmetic appearance and confidence. Cranioplasty is not performed if there is brain swelling, fluid accumulation within the skull (hydrocephalus) or infection. It is usually performed after a waiting period to minimize complications.

The procedure is performed under general anesthesia. The area of the defect is shaved and prepared with antiseptic. The scalp is carefully dissected, identifying and separating its layers. The layer which covers the brain (dura) is protected. The bony edges of the defect are shaped to receive the bone or graft material, which is inserted and held in place with screws and a plate. Bleeding is controlled and the scalp is closed over the bone or graft and secured with sutures. A drain may be placed for a few days to remove excess fluid.

As with all surgeries, the procedure is occasionally associated with complications such as bone flap or wound infection, hematoma (blood accumulation outside the vessels), blood clot, seizure and bone resorption.

Useful Links

  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons
  • American Board of Neurological Surgery
  • American Medical Association
  • The Congress of Neurological Surgeons
  • College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland & Labrador
  • North American Skull Base Society
  • North American Spine Society