Cranioplasty is the surgical repair of defects in the skull, usually performed to amend the results of a traumatic injury or a previous surgery. The Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago is one of only seven centers in the city that offer cranioplasty as a procedure.
Cranioplasty is performed not only to improve the shape and appearance of the skull, but also to provide protection for the underlying brain.
Your doctor may recommend cranioplasty for any of the following reasons:
- Cognitive Performance – Cranial defects can affect neurological activity in some patients.
- Safety – Defects in the skull may leave the brain susceptible to injury.
- Aesthetic – Visible asymmetries may impact appearance and, by extension, self-confidence.
Cranioplasty is usually more than just improving asymmetries of the skull; if you believe you might be a candidate for cranioplasty, schedule a consultation with us to discuss treatment options.
If your doctor believes you are a candidate for cranioplasty, the consultation will include all aspects of the procedure, possible associated risks, and what to expect during recovery. During the consultation, be sure to share your entire medical history, particularly allergies, medications, and previous surgeries. Since the Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago is one of only a handful of centers in the city that perform cranioplasty, we will discuss all facets of the procedure with you so that you have a complete understanding before making the decision to move forward.
After a general anesthetic is administered, the surgeon carefully makes an incision on the scalp and separates the layers in such a way that the dura, the outermost membrane surrounding the brain, remains intact.
The affected cranial area is usually restored with a contoured graft customized to each patient’s individual needs. These implants may be made from titanium, a synthetic bone substitute, molded acrylic, or a graft from the patient’s own bone. The implant or graft is then positioned and secured using plates and screws.
Finally, once any bleeding is controlled and the scalp is placed back into position, the incision is closed with sutures in layers. It is sometimes necessary to have a drain in place for a few days following the procedure to remove any excess fluid.
Since cranioplasty is an inpatient procedure, patients will be transferred to the NCCU (neurological critical care unit) after recovering from anesthesia. Cranial procedures do not often cause much pain, but patients are given medication to ensure comfort.
Most cranioplasty patients spend two to three days in the hospital after their procedure. By the first or second day, patients are encouraged to walk around; by the third day, the head bandage will be removed. If a final CT scan shows no complications, you will be released to return home.
Intermittent headaches and fatigue are common after cranial surgery. Patients should get plenty of rest in the days following their procedure, and always adhere strictly to all instructions given by their surgeon. Sutures are usually removed between two and three weeks after surgery.
Any surgical procedure comes with potential risks. Always discuss these with your surgeon before making the decision to undergo a cranioplasty. Potential risks include:
- Hematoma (blood clot)
Always make sure that the surgeon performing the procedure is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and that the surgery is being carried out in an accredited surgical facility.
Most health insurance plans will cover a majority, or even the entirety, of a cranioplasty procedure because it is considered reconstructive in nature. Health coverage varies, so please contact your health insurance provider before scheduling a consultation.
The Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago is always willing to answer any questions or concerns that potential patients may have regarding any of our procedures. We are as committed to medical education as we are to patient care. If you would like to schedule a consultation, call us today or use the Contact link to send us an inquiry.
All surgical procedures by the Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago are performed at top hospitals in Chicago and CMS or AAAASF-certified surgical centers for safety.