SurgeryTreatment Options

The Road To Neurosurgery

The Neurosurgery Repair Process

In this piece, I’m going to share my personal experience of when I was admitted for neurosurgery to have a pseudomeningocele repaired, which was at the back of my head. The pseudomeningocele was believed to have been the cause of my superficial siderosis. The neurosurgery process may differ across various hospitals and health care systems, but this is how it was for me.

The Phone Call

It can be quite the waiting game, as when surgery isn’t urgent (what is known as elective), you can get pushed to the back of the queue if there are medical emergencies. My surgeon told me he would call when they had a bed free on the ward, but I was told there were currently a lot of patients awaiting surgery for brain tumours which needed urgent treatment. Although it’s understandable they needed to be sorted promptly, the wait really did seem like forever. Unexpectedly, just over 2 weeks later, my mum had a phone call from the ward manager to say a bed was free and I could go to the neurosurgery ward later that evening. The ward manager had also said the surgery would take place the following morning.

Arriving At The Ward

Upon arriving at the ward, the usual observations were done (blood pressure and temperature checks), and this time a blood test was carried out to check my blood type and if my blood was clotting correctly. I also underwent an ECG (electrocardiogram) to check my heart’s function. The nurse left me a surgical gown, pants, and compression stockings (which help prevent blood clots) on the table beside my bed. It was late evening, and I was told not to eat after 10pm, and I could only have sips of water up until 6am.


Having had so much surgery in the past, I know a fair few of the anaesthetists at the hospital. After my 6am wake-up call from the nurse telling me to get into my surgical gown, the consultant anaesthetist came around to see me. This was to go through the procedure and to take information such as my weight, so that he knew how much anaesthetic to give when putting me to sleep. He also asked if I had any allergies and gave me a safety form to fill out, asking questions such as ‘Do you have a pacemaker or any medical implants.’ Surprisingly, he remembered a most of my allergies (there are many) from the last time I was under his care.

A Visit From The Surgeons

One of the surgeons came around an hour or so later with the consent form for me to sign and to explain the risks of the operation. Thankfully, due to the fact my surgeon would be using an implant to fill the cavity at the back of my head, it was a relatively low-risk procedure as opposed to the many shunt revisions I’ve had in the past. Reading some of the risks can be pretty worrying and off-putting, but unlike the shunt revisions, this one didn’t state ‘risk to life’, which was hugely relieving. The surgeon told me a porter would come to collect me in an hour or so and that they would put a line (cannular) in my arm in the anaesthetic room; however, I did warn him that it’s hard enough to get blood out of me, let alone put a line in my arm.

To the Anaesthetic Room

A porter finally arrived to take me to the anaesthetic room to be put to sleep; I’d made this trip so many times before, so I knew the drill. Once I was in the waiting bay for the theatre, a nurse went through the safety form with me once again to make sure nothing had been missed. I was then moved onto a theatre trolley and wheeled into the anaesthetic room. The anaesthetist from earlier greeted me, introduced his team, and then explained what would happen. I was given a facemask with ‘gas and air’ whilst the anaesthetists and their assistants searched my hands, arms, and feet for a good vein to put a cannular in so they could administer the anaesthetic. Unfortunately, as I expected, it was quite a challenge. Over half an hour later of trying to put a cannular in, my surgeon came into the room and asked what was taking so long. I subtly reminded him that this happens nearly every time. My surgeon then joined the anaesthetist team in tapping my hands, arms, and feet, trying to find a vein. Eventually, one of the team found a vein in my left arm after almost squeezing the life out of it. A cannular was inserted, and my surgeon asked me for my permission to take some photographs during the operation for a medical journal that he was putting together. The anaesthetic was then inserted into my vein, and I was out like a light.

The Recovery Room

Straight after the operation, I woke up in the recovery room, where I was looked after by a team of specialist nurses. I was still very drowsy and couldn’t really feel any pain at the back of my head where the surgery had taken place. I was lying down completely flat on the bed, and my surgeon came around to tell me the operation had gone smoothly and wrote on my portable LCD board, ‘You will never have a problem with that pseudomeningocele again.’ I wasn’t aware of the time at that point as I was so drowsy, and all my belongings such as my phone and watch were back on the ward locked in my cupboard. The nurses provided me with pain relief and gave me sips of water when I started to come around. A short while later, a porter took me back to the neurosurgery ward.

Back On The Ward

When I was back on the ward, I had fully woken up just in time for dinner. The nurse told me I would be in hospital for a week or so and that my surgeon wanted to carry out a scan to make sure the leak at the back of my head had been truly sealed. Two days later, I had a radionuclide cisternogram to see whether the surgery had been successful. My surgeon came to see me after the scan, and I walked from my bed (only just) over to the computer, and he showed me the imaging, which confirmed the leak was no more. He had never seen an Indium 111 DTPA cisternogram before and was amazed by the quality of the imaging. On the way back to my bed, my legs began to violently shake, but luckily my surgeon was walking behind me and stopped me from falling. He said he had never seen my legs shake in that way before, to which I explained it happens when I am tired or nervous. The nurse advised me I could home the following day, and that I should make an appointment with my GP to have the stitches removed in 7 days’ time.

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Rhys Holmes

Rhys is a former musician, data analyst, shop assistant,childhood footballer, and a feature writer at Living with Superficial Siderosis. In his spare time, he enjoys watching his favorite football team Liverpool FC. Follow Rhys on Twitter @RhysHolmes

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