Burr Hole Surgery

Burr Hole Surgery

Burr Hole Surgery

Ihave been getting lots of questions about the stuff I had gone through after my recent article: Who’s Got Your Back. Burr hole surgery was something that I was unfamiliar with prior to October 2013. Since then I have had 6 burr holes ( 4 during craniotomy) drilled into my skull and thank goodness I don’t look anything like Jim Carrey during his performance in the The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.  If you are a reading this article because this is something that you are facing in your life, you are going to want to exercise your sense of humor and start developing the right mindset, so lighten up a little watch the clip and have a laugh. Don’t worry – it’s nothing like the magic trick…

 Burr Hole Surgery To Drain Subdural Hematoma

When I underwent  burr hole surgery it was performed in the Neurolgy Ward as opposed to in the Operating Room. As far as brain surgery goes, I was informed that this was a very routine procedure and the most common operation for repairing a subdural hematoma.

Preparation began 12 hours earlier, I was required to fast without food or drink for 12 hours prior to surgery. For me, this turned into quite a bit longer as my surgery was delayed due to other circumstances in the hospital. I don’t remember this time period very well. I had an enormous amount of pressure building inside my head, I wasn’t speaking very clearly and I have been told that my general consciousness and motor skills took a real nose dive in the 12-24 hours prior to this surgery. I guess the clot was growing or shifting and the pressure on my brain was responsible for this.

The operation began with shaving the portion of my head where the incisions were to take place. They did not shave my entire head or even a side of my head. In hind site, hair is full of bacteria and had I been aware of this I would have gladly shaved my entire head to avoid the complications that I later had with infection. If you are facing this surgery, you may want to discuss this point with your medical team.

While the operation was not performed in the O.R. my family was asked to leave during the procedure. Unfortunately, I had a recurring bleed and had this operation done twice, the second time I was completely coherent prior to the operation and based on the two events I think I have a pretty good handle on what takes place.

At this point, I was given injections for local anesthetic. I was not put under for the operation, I am uncertain if this is the situation for every burr hole procedure but I was not put under for either operation.

A small incision is made in the scalp at the point where they have elected to insert the drain. A hand drill device, called a Hudson Brace, was used to create an 8 mm opening in my skull. An incision is then made in the Dura layer. From this point a small catheter is inserted into the area between the Dura and Arachnoid layers and inserted until it comes in contact with the blood clot.

In my case, during the first surgery, as soon as the incision was made in the Dura, blood was released due to the pressure within my head. I could feel the pressure subsiding immediately as the blood now had an escape route and my brain was able to shift back.

The burr hole surgery is performed so that the catheter can work like a siphon and drain the blood from the clot out of the head and release the pressure. During both of my surgeries the catheter or drain was left in place for around a day. They made another incision in the back of my head, threaded the drain under the skin but on top of my skull and had it exit at the rear of my head.

The main incision was sitched closed and a few stitches held the drain in place where it exited my head. The drain was then placed  into a collection bag that hung on the lower part of my hospital bed and stayed attached to me for the 24 hours using gravity to drain the collected blood.

The subdural hematoma in my head was quite large, it drained approximately 140 ml of blood in 24 hours. The drain was then removed by loosening the stitches at the rear of my head and slowly sliding the catheter out through that exit. The main entry point for the burr hole is not reopened.

My recovery from the burr hole surgery is not typical of what most experience. Please keep in mind, I ended up being the low minority statistic in almost everything that happened to me. I am sure that will not be the case for you.

As I said the pressure and pain in my head was relieved instantly. I did continue to have a sore head, mostly as a result of the surgical procedure I believe. I didn’t sleep very well for about the first week and remained very tired. Stitches were removed after about 10 days.

I felt better every day for about two weeks, then progress became slower and as it turned out this would be the case for me following both burr hole surgeries but this is a result of complications. The reading that I was able to do and my personal experience was that right around 5-6 weeks following surgery on my head, the trauma from undergoing surgery seem to almost disappear completely.

So if you are looking at having surgery due to a subdural hematoma and they are going to perform a burr hole operation on you, I think that is probably a pretty safe guage at 5-6 weeks. Everything dependant on your current health and physical conditioning of course, I was previously healthy and in good shape and that is what it took for me.

If you want to read more about my story, you can do so here: Who’s Got Your Back. Otherwise, take a minute to laugh at the short youtube clip here and if you or anyone you know wants to talk more about this type of brain surgery, just leave me a comment, I would love to hear from you and help in any way I can.


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17 Responses to Burr Hole Surgery

  1. Grant August 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    That was a good read Mike, I have had two lots of Burr Hole surgery to relieve the initial and then a recorrance of a sub dural haematoma. 8 weeks from my second go and I am feeling fine. Back at work now and am starting to do some more strenuous exercise without any real drama’s. Apart from general soreness from doing nothing for 3 months. I am wondering about your return to exercise and how long it took you to get back to what you where pre-op.

    • Mike August 29, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

      Grant, 2 years since my ordeal started and I am finally feeling normal again. It took a long time, much longer than expected… that said, the infection and craniotomy surgery prolonged my recovery… I am sure you will bounce back FAST!

  2. Dayle October 20, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your experience with subdural hematoma and burr hole surgery, Mike. I, too, had SH and the BH surgery recently (in late August 2014). My SH was a result of head injury from a bicycle crash. Three weeks after the crash, I developed stroke-like symptoms (slurred speech, noticeable weakness and limpness on the right side of my body) along with pretty severed headaches. At that point, my wife, bless her, forced me to go to the ER of a local hospital where a CT scan indicated the SH. I was then whisked away via ambulance to another hospital for the burr hole surgery. The surgery was successful and I spent then subsequent 24 hours flat on my back with a catheter in each burr hole for additional draining of the hematomas.

    Was released three days post-surgery and the day after release, with the doctor’s admonition to be careful, I returned to work (I have a non-physical type of job which allows me to sit while working). Have not missed a day of work since and each day post-surgery I have felt better and better.

    What I miss most is rigorous exercise, especially bicycle riding. I was pretty active, riding 4-5x a week for an hour+ each ride. The doctor advised me to refrain from bike riding, due to the risk of a fall and another head bang, for at least until the end of 2014. In the meantime, I have been riding a stationary bike, walking, and hiking. So far, so good.

    • Mike October 23, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

      Dayle, I wish you a continued speedy recovery and that you are able to get back on the bike quickly. Thanks for taking the time to write and share!

      All The Best,

  3. maureen Bell November 12, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Has anyone recovering from burr hole
    Surgery for sub dural heamorage ever
    Lost sense of smell or had de ja vou type sensation or flash backs
    I am asking for hubby

  4. Barbara December 27, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    I had this surgery in 2011 have 4 deep depressions still in my head. Do the drilled holes ever fill in?

    • Mike January 7, 2015 at 10:24 am #

      Barbara, these beauty spots will be with us forever! I am proud of them, they remind me of how precious my life is and how far I have come!

  5. Cathy February 7, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    We are sitting at the hospital, drinking bad coffee now, waiting for my much loved 72 year old husband to have burr hole surgery to relieve pressure due to bleeding in the frontal lobe. This web site, and the postings help a great deal.

    In his case, he had been taking massive doses of aspirin for another illness and obviously, that is a blood thinner. Even a small bump on the head, with this medication, can cause a subdural hemotoma. So guard your head, if you ever have to take it.

    I’ll keep you posted

    • Mike February 13, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

      I am praying for a speedy recovery for your husband and for peace for you and your family Cathy. I am glad my experience has been helpful

  6. Anna March 5, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    Hello.. Do you know if activities like sky diving, bungy jumping, scuba diving etc are allowed after a burr hole surgery? It’s been exactly a year since someone I love had this surgery. I tried searching online but can’t find anything.. If you have any info on this, please do share. I’ll be forever grateful..

    • Mike April 23, 2015 at 10:29 am #

      Anna, I have been given a clean bill of health and therefore feel like I am up for anything. That said, my head does feel different and to be honest, 2 years later I still struggle to get in shape and back to the fitness I used to have. This question is something your friend should definitely be asking their Dr. before they engage in anything like you have mentioned.

      Cheers, thanks for coming by

      • Anna April 24, 2015 at 7:09 am #

        Thanks Mike. I hope, in time, you’ll be back to what you were before! 😀
        Take care, Mike..

  7. Diane April 23, 2015 at 1:14 am #

    Thanks so much for sharing. My 87 yr old dad may have this procedure next week, depending if the CT shows no improvement in his subdural hematoma. He’s had 4 strokes in ten months and now this from a fall. I was thinking the worst possible scenario was he’d end up in ICU. Thanks for sharing your case which seemed simple. I appreciate any info I can get, and yours was written in an easy breezy form. Thanks again. Diane

    • Mike April 23, 2015 at 10:26 am #

      Thanks for the props Diane and all the best to your father – I am sure he will do great!

  8. Amie May 1, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your story Mike! My now 9 year old son had 2 burr holes done to drain what ended up labelled as a spontaneous hematoma when he was 5 (it was the end result of a baffling and complex illness that lasted about 3 months). Thank God he is well today. What brings me here is the cranial dent in the front burr hole. It never filled in totally (they thought it would with time although not fully likely) and may even be getting a bit deeper as time goes on. It doesn’t help that (***gross warning***) my 9 year old decided it was a good idea to press ‘really hard’ on his indent recently :/ Thinking his general practitioner may be able to advise if we need to consult with the neurosurgeon 4 years post op (seems odd and unsure what if anything they would do other than tell my stereotypical boy to NEVER press on it again as I did as well obviously ~ makes my stomach turn!) Wish I could find some info that gives specifics about the safety of these indents for future contact if any should occur.

    • Mike May 1, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

      Wow Amie,

      Yes thank God he is well! A lot for a young guy and his parents to go through.

      I was told that the holes don’t grow back, while something has definitely filled most of the void, I still have a very obvious dent in the right front and most of my right side where the craniotomy took place still feels soft.

      All I can say, is that it just isn’t the same as it used to be.

      I don’t get on my bike without a helmet and I am over protective of my head in general now, which would be hard for a young guy to do.

      That said, my neuro team told me not to think twice about it and just get out there and live my life!

      I wish you and your son continued good health and thanks very much for coming by and your nice comments.

      • Amie May 2, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

        Thank you Mike!

        I’m thankful for your description because my son has told me some things and I have a hard time understanding it. Glad you are careful when it comes to your head. I don’t know what I would do if he had soft spots!

        It really was a lot to go through but while we were admitted we learned quickly there are parents and children going through worse unfortunately. Then again, how do you compare one hell to the next? Probably by how long it takes to get out of it, if you get there at all. Again thanking God we did.

        It is reassuring to hear that neurology pretty much tells everyone the same thing ~ live as you did before this.

        His dent is just burr hole size (about an inch across) and after my panic last night, not a foot deep 😉 There’s hard surface underneath. No pulsating that shows (I’ve read that can happen sometimes). If I had to guess I think it’s about 5mm deep. Of course the hair doesn’t grow back on the scars but we just keep the hair a bit longer over those parts. Sometimes it shows anyway and he did get called boo boo head for a while but kids can be cruel and he’s turned out to be a protector of all because of it.

        Anyhow, thanks for listening and for sharing! Thinking this tough guy will be just fine as long as his Mom doesn’t have a meltdown :)

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