What Is the Difference Between a Craniotomy & a Craniectomy?

A craniotomy is a surgical procedure that may be used to treat brain cancer. A craniectomy is a similar procedure that involves a different surgical technique and is used in different situations.

What is a craniotomy?

During a craniotomy, a small piece of skull is removed so that a surgeon can access the brain. Once the tumor has been removed, the bone fragment is put back in place. Sometimes, the bone fragment is secured with small plates or screws, and heals like a bone fracture.

What is a craniectomy?

A craniectomy is a surgical procedure that is very similar to a craniotomy, but with one key difference. After a craniectomy, the bone fragment is not immediately put back into place. This approach may be taken if there is significant swelling in the brain and a surgeon deems it necessary to relieve pressure within the skull. The bone fragment is typically kept so that it can be put back into place during a future surgery, although it may also be discarded in favor of a future reconstruction using an artificial bone.

Where to have brain surgery performed

Moffitt Cancer Center’s surgical oncologists perform a variety of advanced procedures to treat brain cancer, including craniotomies and craniectomies. We are a high-volume cancer center, which means that our oncologists perform countless complex operations each year. Additionally, we tailor our approach to treatment to meet each individual’s unique needs, helping our patients achieve the best possible outcomes and quality of life. One of the specialized approaches that we offer is an awake craniotomy, in which a patient receives pain-blocking medications but remains awake for his or her operation. By responding to our surgeons’ prompts during the craniotomy, patients are able to help our team protect the critical tissues that control speech and other neurological functions.

If you’d like to discuss your options for brain cancer surgery – be it a craniotomy, craniectomy or any other type of procedure – with a member of our Neuro-Oncology Program, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online to request an appointment. We welcome, but do not require, physicians’ referrals.