Common Neurosurgery Terms

Debulking — The surgical removal of only part of your tumor or tumors. In some cases, your neurosurgeon may be able to remove only some of your tumor. The term debulking means that your tumor was reduced in size but not fully removed.

You may need additional treatments to manage the remaining tumor. Cancers not fully removed sometimes recur.

Partial Removal — The surgical removal of only some of your tumor in order to avoid damaging your neurological function.

You may need additional treatments to manage the remaining tumor. Cancers not fully removed sometimes recur.

Complete Removal — The surgical removal of the your entire tumor. It’s also sometimes called a gross total resection. Even though all tumor cells may have been removed, your physician may recommend further treatment and periodic testing to check for recurrence.

Shunt — Sometimes your tumor may block the flow of CSF in your brain, or there may be excess fluid in your brain, and your physician may advise the surgical placement of a shunt to improve the flow or drain the excess fluid.

A shunt is a narrow, flexible plastic tube surgically placed at the swelling site and draining to your heart or abdomen. A valve that prevents the flow from going back up into your brain controls the shunt.

Shunts generally need regular maintenance and cleaning. They can be either temporary or permanent.

Ommaya Reservoir — Your physician may recommend the placement of an Ommaya reservoir, a small plastic container surgically inserted into your brain to aid with fluid flow. The reservoir is connected to a tube (catheter) and a lateral ventricle in your brain. The purpose of an Ommaya reservoir is to:

  • Remove CSF from your brain to help detect presence of abnormal cells
  • Remove fluid from your brain so you can avoid surgery
  • Deliver chemotherapy drugs to your brain and your CSF so you can avoid lumbar punctures

Embolization   A procedure where the blood flow to the tumor is stopped prior to the surgical removal of the tumor. An interventional neuroradiologist will plug up the vessels supplying your tumor, while allowing blood to continue flowing to other parts of your brain.

Embolization is particularly effective on tumors with a high number of blood vessels, called vascular tumors, such as meningiomas.

Cortical mapping and Craniotomy Cortical mapping is a procedure in which language, motor, and sensory areas of your brain are identified and mapped before attempting to remove a tumor. By doing so, your neurosurgeon will know which areas to avoid so that there is the least impairment possible to your language and motor skills and senses.

Cortical mapping is done in combination with a craniotomy. Your neurosurgeon will remove part of your skull while you are under general anesthesia. Local anesthetic is used to block pain from your scalp. Once the brain is visible, the surgeon will place electrodes on the surface of your brain. Because the brain itself has no pain receptors, it cannot feel pain.

For the next step, you will be awakened so that your neuropsychologist can perform language exercises with you. With very little stimulation to your brain, your neuropsychologist will assess whether you can effectively perform the language exercises.

During motor or sensory mapping exercises you may experience a tingling on your body or a sensation of limb movement; however, there is generally no pain or discomfort associated with the stimulation itself.

Using information from the exercises, your neuropsychologist can map the areas of your brain that your neurosurgeon should avoid.

Text Size