Brain Aneurysm Surgery: Recovery

It can vary depending on the effect of the aneurysm

Recovery after brain aneurysm surgery can take months or longer, and often involves rehabilitative therapy and adjusting to new medications. There is a range in the amount of time it takes to recover, and the duration of your recovery depends on the type of brain aneurysm surgery you had, whether your aneurysm ruptured prior to surgery, whether you had any surgical complications, and your overall health.

You may be able to go home within days after a minimally invasive prophylactic brain aneurysm repair. But having a brain aneurysm rupture prior to your surgery means that you can expect to spend weeks in the hospital, and additional weeks or months in a rehabilitation program.

Brain aneurysm surgery recovery is faster wth an endovascular procedure
Getty Images / Cavan Images

Surgery Follow-Up 

In the days after brain aneurysm surgery, you will be closely monitored in the hospital. You may need to stay in the neurological intensive care unit (ICU) for several days or longer, and you will be able to go to a regular neurological unit in the hospital as your health stabilizes.

Signs of Recovery

It can be hard to predict how long you would need to stay in the ICU. Your medical and surgical team will consider several criteria to determine how well your recovery is going and whether you are ready to move to a less intensive hospital setting. 

Signs of recovery include:

  • Breathing on your own
  • Being alert and aware of your surroundings 
  • Being able to communicate
  • Having stable or manageable blood pressure, pulse, and heart function 
  • Absence of seizures
  • Seizures that are controllable with medication

Keep in mind that your surgical team may have told you when to anticipate post-operative improvement based on your specific situation. 

Craniectomy 

If you have had a craniectomy due to edema (swelling) from a ruptured brain aneurysm, you would have a small area on your head that is not protected by skull bone. When your edema improves, you will go back to the operating room to have this portion of bone put back into its place. You may also need additional time to recover after that operation. 

Complications 

Complications can occur after a prophylactic brain aneurysm repair or after a repair due to a rupture.

If you have had a ruptured brain aneurysm, the effects of the bleed can make recovery more difficult. The aneurysm rupture may cause cerebral (brain) edema, head pain, and neurological issues, even when there are no surgical complications.

Additionally, brain aneurysm surgery is a delicate procedure, and adverse effects can occur. You can also be predisposed to complications if you have health problems like heart disease, lung disease, or a history of stroke or head trauma. 

If you have complications, you might not improve as expected right after surgery—or you could begin to improve and then experience a decline.

Signs of complications include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Diminished responsiveness 
  • Behavioral changes 
  • Persistent seizures 
  • Vision changes 
  • Difficulty speaking or moving part of the body 

These symptoms can occur due to cerebral edema, infection, bleeding, or vasospasm (sudden narrowing of a blood vessel), any of which can occur after any type of brain aneurysm procedure. If you experience these complications, you would need prompt medical and/or surgical intervention to alleviate the issue. 

Recovery Timeline

The timeline for resuming your usual activities, getting back to driving, and returning to work differs for each person after brain aneurysm surgery. 

You may be able to return to activities like work, driving, and exercise within a few weeks after an uncomplicated endovascular prophylactic brain aneurysm repair. You might not have any deficit at all, and you may even experience improvement of pre-surgical symptoms that had been caused by the aneurysm. 

On the other hand, after a craniotomy repair of a ruptured brain aneurysm with a major bleed and severe cerebral edema, you might not be able to return to your usual activities, even after you have reached your peak recovery. 

If you have faced a major decline in your health before or after your brain aneurysm surgery, you may experience gradual improvement for a year or longer.

Rehabilitation

As you begin to stabilize after your brain aneurysm surgery, you will go from an ICU to a non-ICU setting, and then either to your home or to a step down or rehabilitation facility. 

Whether at home or in a rehabilitation faculty, you will work on regaining any skills that you have lost:

  • Physical therapy is aimed at building your strength and coordination.
  • Occupational therapy is aimed at gaining self-care abilities, like brushing your teeth and cooking.
  • Speech and swallow therapy are designed to help you speak clearly and eat safely. 

Home Life

Once you head home, you may still have some restrictions. You might not be ready to drive right away, and your therapist and doctor may tell you to avoid stairs or activities that require balance.

You might have to eat foods that don’t pose a high risk of choking. For example, you may be instructed to avoid liquids and hard food, opting for thick liquids and soft food instead. The specific restrictions you would have are based on your abilities as you are recovering.

You may have some pain or discomfort at your surgical incision site. And you might experience headaches, as well as side effects of new medications (such as anti-seizure medications) that you are taking.

Your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage your pain, and you may need medication adjustments if you are experiencing side effects of your anti-seizure treatment.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following: 

  • Confusion 
  • Extreme tiredness 
  • Trouble communicating 
  • Weakness or sensory changes on one side of the body 
  • Vision changes 
  • A severe headache 
  • Seizures 
  • Neck stiffness 

Wound Care

You may need to manage your wound as you are recovering. If you have had a craniotomy, you would need to care for the wound on your head. And If you have had an endovascular procedure, you would need to manage the wound in your groin.

Craniotomy Care 

After a craniotomy, you will have a bald spot on your head. Typically, the hair should grow back after several months.

You would also have a scalp wound due to the surgical incision. The wound is likely to have healed even before your discharge from the hospital. However, if it hasn’t fully healed, you need to keep it covered with bandages until your doctor removes the sutures. 

Groin Incision Care 

If you had an incision in your groin, you may be discharged from the hospital before your wound heals. You will have to keep the wound covered with bandages, and you may be instructed to change the bandages.

Your doctor may advise you to place ice on your wound to keep it from swelling. Be sure to keep it clean and dry. You can shower, but you can’t swim or soak in a tub until after the sutures are removed. 

Coping With Recovery 

It can be hard to predict your outcome after a brain aneurysm surgery. The uncertainty can be stressful. You may consider seeing a therapist to talk about your feelings and how you are coping with the changes that you are going through. 

Your family, especially those who take care of you, may also benefit from talking about the adjustment process with a professional. 

Additionally, you and your family may want to connect with others who have been through a similar experience by joining a support group of brain aneurysm survivors. Sometimes, hearing that you are not alone can be helpful and can give you a great deal of insight into practical ways to cope.

A Word From Verywell

Recovery after brain aneurysm surgery is variable, depending on the type of surgery and whether surgery was preceded by a brain aneurysm rupture. Even uncomplicated recovery involves a substantial healing process and close neurological care. Over time, you and your family should see slow and steady improvement.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Acioly MA, Shaikh KA, White IK, Ziemba-Davis M, Bohnstedt BN, Cohen-Gadol A. Predictors of outcomes and complications after microsurgical and endovascular treatment of 1300 intracranial aneurysms. World Neurosurg. 2019 Feb;122:e516-e529. doi:10.1016/j.wneu.2018.10.094

  2. Tomatis A, Trevisi G, Boido B, Perez R, Benech CA. Surgical outcomes and their correlation with increasing surgical experience in a series of 250 ruptured or unruptured aneurysms undergoing microsurgical clipping. World Neurosurg. 2019 Oct;130:e542-e550. doi:10.1016/j.wneu.2019.06.150

  3. Duve KV, Mishchenko TS, Shkrobot SI. The comprehensive evaluation of patients' condition in recovery and residual periods of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. Wiad Lek. 2020;73(4):777-781. PMID: 32731715.