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Brain Surgery for Epilepsy

The following information will answer some general questions you may have after your child’s epilepsy surgery. Recovery differs with each person.

What to Expect

Headaches are more common after surgery. They may come and go for one to four weeks but will improve with time. Before your child is discharged, your doctor will talk with you about which pain medicine you can give your child if needed. For an intense headache that doesn’t go away even with pain medicine, call your child’s doctor right away.

Your child may be more forgetful or have a harder time concentrating. Your child may also have trouble finding a word he or she wants to say. These problems will usually get better in a few months.

Your child may have a seizure while the brain is healing. Keep using a seizure diary. If your child has a seizure after you go home, call your doctor.

Commonly Used Medications after discharge

Acetaminophen (brands such as Tylenol®)

You may need to give your child acetaminophen at home for mild to moderate pain. Your doctor will give you a prescription for stronger pain medication which you will need to use if your child is experiencing moderate pain.

Ibuprofen (brands such as Advil®)

You many need to give ibuprofen at home for mild to moderate pain. Your doctor will give you a prescription for stronger pain medication which you may need to use if  your child is experiencing moderate pain.


This medication may be prescribed if your child has breakthrough pain. It can be given along with medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Seizure medication

You will receive instruction about seizure medication before you go home. Your child will need to keep taking seizure medications. It is important to give your child these medications as prescribed by your doctor. Your child’s doctor will talk to you about adjusting medication in the future

Dexamethasone (also called decadron)

Your doctor may also prescribe dexamethasone. This medicine is given to your child to reduce swelling. This medication will be slowly decreased as your child recovers from surgery. This medication is a steroid so your child may eat more than usual or be a little more irritable while on this medication.

Ranitidine (also called Zantac®)

If your child is taking dexamethasone, your child will also be taking Ondansetron. This medication protects the stomach wall and is typically stopped 3 days after ending dexamethasone.


Your child may tire more easily. Your child should go back to quiet, less physically demanding play activities for the first 4 weeks after going home.

Take your child on several short walks every day.

He or she should avoid activities like running, wrestling, jumping, climbing, riding a tricycle or bicycle, driving motorized vehicles, lifting heavy objects, contact sports, horseback riding, skiing, ball sports, swimming and diving.

Water activities: Your child is not allowed to soak his or her incision for 4 weeks after surgery. He or she should not be swimming until they are at least 4 weeks from surgery. Never leave your child alone, near, or in water even if they know how to swim. Remember, he or she may still have a seizure.

Your child may resume non-contact sports and activities in 6 weeks. He or she may resume contact sports and activity in 3-6 months. These restrictions will be discussed by your surgeon.

It is ok for your child to gradually return to school roughly 2 weeks after surgery. Your doctor or nurse practitioner will write a note for school so teachers know how much your child should be doing.

If your child attends day care, it is ok to return to day care 1-2 weeks after surgery.

Talk with your doctor if you have specific questions about your child’s activities.


Remember that your child may still have a seizure. Please appropriately plan and monitor activities and provide for your child’s safety.

Some children need to wear a helmet after surgery. If your child has had seizures that caused a fall or a head injury, or if he or she is unsteady when walking, your child should wear a helmet whenever he or she is out of bed. Make sure the strap is snug and snapped.

Incision care

Your surgeon will either use sutures or staples during surgery. Your child’s staples or sutures will need to be removed two weeks after surgery. You will receive instructions about who may remove them.

Help your child avoid picking, touching or scratching the incision. Keep your child’s hands and fingernails very clean. Keep his or her fingernails clipped without any sharp edges.

It is ok to take a shower 3 days after surgery. You may wash your child’s head at this time. Do not soak the scalp or scrub the incision until instructed by your surgeon. Pat the incision area dry after washing. No baths or soaking of the incision for at least 3 weeks after surgery.

The incision does not need to be covered with a dressing. It is fine to use a clean and loose-fitting cap, hat, scarf or wig.

If you see any swelling, redness or drainage near the incision, or if your child has a fever, contact your child’s doctor.


Follow-up appointments will be listed on your hospital discharge paperwork. After surgery, your surgeon will usually like to see your child in 2 weeks to check the incision and to make sure things are going well at home. You will also continue to have appointments with your epilepsy doctor to adjust medications and monitor recovery.

If before your appointments you have any questions or any concerns or if you need to schedule an appointment, you can call either the epilepsy clinic or neurosurgery clinic. If you are calling outside of office hours, you may need to leave your number with an answering service who will page a provider to return your call.

Minnesota Epilepsy Group

Children’s Neurosurgery Group

Last Reviewed 7/2015 © Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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