Definition and Overview
The head is one of the most important parts of the human body since it contains not only the brain—which serves as the centre where all activities, movements and functions of the body are coordinated—but also the main receptors of the human senses, such as the eyes, nose, ears and tongue. As such, surgical procedures performed on any part of the human head is bound to be risky and complicated, which is why it is very important for the patient to undergo a consultation session before any operation can be performed.
The primary care physician or family doctor will often refer the patient to a specialist physician before treatment for any disease or disorder in the head or brain can be prescribed. The same goes for patients who wish to undergo cosmetic surgical procedures, especially those that require the manipulation of bone and tissues.
The consultation before head surgery will often involve discussions of the benefits, advantages, risks and possible complications of the procedure. Anaesthetic and surgical techniques that will be used in the procedure will also be explained. In addition, the surgeon may also opt to order tests and imaging procedures to determine if the patient is fit for the operation.
The consultation will also include pre-operative and post-operative care guidelines to ensure the success of the treatment and to relieve the anxiety and fear that the patient might be feeling before undergoing the procedure. The whole consultation may take a couple of minutes to an hour, depending on the type of head surgery and the kind and number of tests that will be performed.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Anyone undergoing a surgical procedure in any part of the head, including the brain, face, eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and even throat and neck should first undergo a head surgery consultation with a qualified medical professional. This professional can be the patient’s primary care physician, a specialist for the part of the head requiring surgical treatment, or the surgeon who will be performing the procedure. The patient might also need to see the anaesthesiologist of the clinic or hospital where the surgery will be performed.
Patients with the following conditions awaiting surgical intervention should undergo head surgery consultation:
- Abnormal blood vessels in the brain
- Birth defects in the brain
- Bleeding in the brain
- Blood clots in the brain
- Brain abscesses
- Brain aneurysm
- Brain injury
- Brain pressure caused by injury
- Brain tumours, benign or malignant
- Defects or injuries in the head, face and neck requiring reconstructive surgery
- Fractures of the skull
- Moderate to severe damage to the dura, or the brain’s protective tissue
- Mouth cancer
- Nerve damage in the brain
- Parkinson’s disease
- Throat cancer
The expected results of a head surgery consultation are the following:
- The patient will have a better understanding and knowledge of the surgical procedure he or she is about to undergo
- The patient will understand the risks and possible complications that may develop during and after the surgical procedure
- The consulting doctor will be able to determine the patient’s fitness and the chance of success of surgical treatment.
How is the Procedure Performed?
A head surgery consultation is usually conducted like an appointment with a primary care physician. The session will start with the doctor asking general questions about the patient’s health. At this point, the patient can also ask about the specifics of the procedure that he or she will undergo.
The doctor will also conduct a general systems examination that will include the following:
- Listening for heart murmurs, as patients who undergo non-emergency surgery must have normal vital signs before the procedure
- Listening for abnormal breath patterns
- Checking for malformations or disorders in the musculoskeletal system, which can affect the success of the procedure
- Airway assessment
Various laboratory tests may also be ordered to determine the following:
Is the patient suffering from anemia? Anemia, or the deficiency of red blood cells or haemoglobin, can increase the risk of hypoxia or cardiac dysfunction during the surgical procedure. This condition can also impair the patient’s ability to heal after the surgery. Anemic patients might require pre-operative care and anemia treatment before the surgery is performed, especially if the procedure can potentially involve substantial blood loss.
Does the patient have an underlying kidney deficiency? This condition might require special consideration when it comes to the medication and anaesthesia that will be used during the procedure.
Does the patient have underlying malnutrition? A deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals can affect the patient’s recovery.
Is the patient’s blood clotting properly?
The results of the general systems examination and laboratory tests will be evaluated before the patient is given the clearance for the surgical procedure.
Possible Risks and Complications
The consultation itself is generally safe and does not involve invasive surgical procedures or techniques. However, it is important to consult with the specialist, primary care physician, or surgeon before the procedure is performed to ensure the safety and health of the patient and minimize the possible risks and complications of the procedure.
- Gasco J, Mohanty A, Hanbali F, Patterson JT. Neurosurgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 68.