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Care and Recovery after Brain Surgery

After brain surgery, it will take time for the patient to return to his/her usual level of energy. Healing requires extra rest.

The amount of time required to recover after brain surgery is different for each person and depends on:

  • The procedure used to remove the brain tumor
  • The location of the tumor within the brain
  • Areas of the brain affected by the surgery
  • The patient’s age and overall health

The patient should expect to stay in The Johns Hopkins Hospital for two to five days. The exact length of stay depends on many factors, such as the type of surgery performed and whether the patient had any complications or requires further treatment.

Our doctors and nurses provide expert care for each patient during the hospital stay.  Before being released from the hospital, they will provide detailed instructions about home care.

The Neurosciences Critical Care Unit (NCCU)

After surgery, the patient will begin the recovery process in the Johns Hopkins Neurosciences Critical Care Unit. Johns Hopkins established one of the first Neuro critical care units in the nation in 1982.

A team of doctors and nurses who are specially trained in neurology and critical care — the care of patients whose conditions are life-threatening and who require comprehensive care and constant monitoring — will provide the highest level of intensive care available 24/7.

The patient will be able to see family members once the doctors and nurses have completed their assessments and the patient is stable. This usually takes about one hour.

After the Neurosciences Critical Care Unit, the patient will continue recovering in one of the hospital’s neurosurgery nursing units.

Rehabilitation Therapy

Brain tumors and surgery for brain tumors can cause problems with thoughts, feelings and behaviors. After surgery, the patient may need help recovering. Rehabilitation specialists (physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech language pathologists) at Johns Hopkins will provide assistance:

  • Physical therapists will assess the patient’s ability to walk safely and climb stairs before being released from the hospital. They may also help the patient improve strength and balance.
  • Occupational therapists will assess the patient’s ability to perform activities of daily living such as getting dressed, using the toilet and getting in and out of the shower. Occupational therapists also test the patient’s vision and thinking skills to determine whether the patient can return to work, driving or other challenging tasks.
  • Speech language pathologists: If the patient’s brain tumor affects speech, speech language pathologists will evaluate problems with speech, language or thinking. They may also evaluate the patient for swallowing disorders.

The patient’s doctors and therapy team will help the patient prepare to leave the hospital. Some patients require additional rehabilitation after that. Learn more about rehabilitation after a brain injury or surgery.

Going home

Before being released from the hospital, the patient’s doctors and nurses will teach the patient and his/her family about home care and what to expect during the healing process. The instructions will also cover when to call 911 or the doctor:

Call 911 right away if the patient:

  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has a seizure and has not had one before
  • Has more seizures than usual
  • Has a different type of seizure than usual

Call the doctor if the patient:

  • Has trouble urinating (peeing)
  • Cannot control the timing of urination or a bowel movement
  • Is confused or has trouble remembering things
  • Has hallucinations
  • Has major changes in mood or behavior
  • Has difficulty seeing or hearing
  • Is much more tired than usual or has difficulty waking up
  • Is nauseous or vomits
  • Feels weakness in the arms or legs or you has trouble walking
  • Has more or worse headaches than usual
  • Has a tingling feeling (pins and needles) or numbness (no feeling) in the face, arms or legs
  • Faints or has a seizure
  • Has difficulty talking
  • Is more sensitive to light, has a stiff neck, or has a fever higher than 100.5º F (38º Celsius)
  • Has a red, swollen or painful calf

The patient should also call the doctor with any questions or concerns.

For more information about care after surgery, see follow-up care.

For more information, contact the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Brain Tumor Center at 410-955-6406.

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