Hair Sparing Craniotomy: February 21, 2012

It was one, two punch for Karolee Meek. First, she learned she had cancer, and then she was told she needed brain surgery to remove a tumor. The final straw would be having her head shaved.

“I love my hair, to wake up from surgery and not to have it would devastate me. On top of you know what I just went through in the first place.”

Because of the attachment women in particular have to have their hair, surgeons started looking closer at hair sparing procedures to see if they could work inside the skull without creating a higher risk of infection.

“Where I trained, almost everyone just shaved a kind of wide area to prevent hair from getting in, bacteria from getting in. But there have been numerous studies that have shown really there’s not much difference in the infection rate. In fact it’s the same whether you shave or you don’t shave,” says Dr. Dean Lin, a neurosurgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.

Karolee underwent a craniotomy, in which a small flap of bone is temporarily removed from the skull to give access to the brain. Dr. Lin opted to use a hair sparing technique.

“We scrub it with Betadine which has been used for decades as a surgical sterilization technique. We spend a fair amount of time sterilizing it and then using a sterile comb to comb the hair out of the way. Usually we do shave a tiny little area there just to make closing it up easier.”

It took an extra 20 to 30 minutes, but in terms of recovery, it was time well spent.

“Patients, I do think from a mental and psychological standpoint, they just feel so much better to wake up and not look like a victim,” says Dr. Lin.

Days after brain surgery and there is hardly a trace. She later passed a post-op visit with flying colors.

“She’s healing fantastic, she just had surgery less than two weeks ago. She feels perfect you can’t even tell that she had surgery,” says Dr. Lin.

Karolee isn’t finished fighting cancer.

“I still have some work ahead of me, a long road ahead. But I still look the same, I look normal; I’m not, you know, abnormal, as far as with my head shaved so I’m very pleased.”

With her crowning glory intact, she is ready for battle.