for better mental health

Neurosurgery for mental disorder (NMD)

Explains what NMD is, what the operation is like, possible side effects and alternative surgical treatments. Also covers the law around consent to treatment by NMD.

What are the side effects?

The side effects of NMD may differ depending on the type of surgical technique being used. NMD can cause:

  • headaches, which may be severe and last for several days
  • confusion
  • nausea
  • weight gain
  • apathy (a lack of emotion, interest or concern)
  • sleeping problems

There is also some evidence that people who have had NMD experience suicidal feelings.

However, it is not known whether this is caused by the existing mental health problems or whether it is caused by the physical or emotional impact of the surgery itself.

In addition to this, all brain surgeries carry a risk of causing:

  • seizures
  • damage to the blood vessels, which may result in stroke, although this is very rare in NMD
  • pressure in the front of your brain, caused by fluid produced in the brain tissues as part of the healing process. This can make you feel confused, and can last for up to a month after the operation.

Could NMD affect my mental capacity or personality?

  • Mental capacity – there is no evidence that NMD causes any loss of thinking ability. It might actually help you to think more clearly if you experience fewer of the symptoms that had previously made it hard for you to concentrate.
  • Personality – personality changes following NMD have been reported in some people, but are considered rare.

This information was published in February 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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