Experts offer suggestions on post-surgery care after brain cancer.
> Keep the incision clean. Craniotomy incisions are usually closed with sutures or surgical staples. Follow the physician’s instructions regarding incision care. Some physicians want patients to keep the incision dry, while others allow patients to gently wash their hair (and the incision) soon after surgery. Do not apply any lotions, creams or ointments to the incision, unless instructed to do so by your healthcare provider. Cover the incision with a bandana or loose hat when going outside.
> Watch the incision for signs of infection or complications. An incision that becomes red and warm to the touch may be infected. Leaking or oozing fluid (after the bandage has been removed) can indicate a possible complication, such as increased brain pressure or a cerebrospinal fluid leak. Any abnormalities should be reported immediately.
> Control Pain. Most patients go home with a prescription for a small number of narcotic pain pills. If the pain pills are not adequate to control pain, or if the patient is still having severe pain when the narcotics have run out, notify the healthcare provider. Uncontrollable or persistent pain can be a sign of complications.
> Gradually return to activity. Friends and family members may want to pamper the person who’s had surgery, but it’s best to allow someone to do as much as possible independently. “Simple everyday activities such as getting dressed, grooming and meal prep are fantastic exercise and probably just as important as formal physical and occupational therapy,” says Michael O’Dell, chief of clinical services in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and medical director of the Inpatient Rehabilitation Medicine Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.