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Brain Tumor Surgery

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a leader in brain tumor surgery for children.

Doctor checking eyes of male child

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a leader in brain tumor surgery for children. Your child benefits from our partnership with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Together, the 2 hospitals offer a team of experts specially trained in caring for children before, during, and after brain tumor surgery. 

Many brain tumors require surgery to get a sample of the tumor. We check the sample to see what type of brain tumor it is. This is known as a biopsy. Your child’s care team will determine if your child needs a biopsy.

Brain tumor surgery happens in a special surgical unit at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, located about 1 mile from St. Jude. The unit features advanced equipment to take images of the exact location of your child’s tumor. A surgeon uses these images to guide the surgery, which can take place after the biopsy without moving your child to another facility.

Steps of brain tumor surgery

Surgery for a brain tumor is typically either a biopsy only—taking a small piece of the tumor that is given to the pathologist to analyze—or a resection, which is partial or complete removal of the tumor.

Often, the preoperative MRI (MRI scan before surgery) will determine whether the surgery should be a biopsy or a resection. If it is a resection, the MRI will determine whether all or part of the tumor can be removed.

Surgery can range from 1–2 hours to all day. For children who need a resection, an intraoperative MRI (MRI scan during surgery) is often done to make sure that all of the tumor has been removed. This very powerful tool greatly enhances the surgeon’s ability to safely remove the tumor.   

Following surgery, your child may go to Le Bonheur’s Intensive Care Unit, or to the Le Bonheur postoperative care floor. Both the ICU and the floor are staffed with nurses who are well trained and experienced. The length of your child’s hospital stay depends on several factors, including the length and complexity of the surgery. Most children are discharged within 1 week of their surgery. You can stay with your child during this recovery period. Each day your child will be seen by a care team to make sure all concerns and issues are addressed properly and quickly. 

After discharge from Le Bonheur, the surgeon will work with other members of the Brain Tumor Program to determine the best treatment plan for your child. If your child needs any type of treatment after surgery, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, it will happen at St. Jude. All brain tumor surgeries will take place at Le Bonheur.

Brain tumors can cause long-term learning, behavior, or physical problems in some children. Your child’s care team may prescribe a follow-up plan that includes working with St. Jude rehabilitation experts.

Your brain tumor surgery team

Your child’s surgical team starts with a group of highly trained doctors:

  • Pediatric neuro-oncologists: who diagnose and treat brain and nervous system tumors in children
  • Pediatric neurosurgeons: who perform surgery on the brain and spine in children
  • Pediatric radiation oncologists: who use radiation to treat cancer in children

But the care team extends far beyond the surgeons who perform the brain tumor surgery. Your child will have a full diagnosis and treatment team to help you and your family through each step. This team includes support services such as psychology, rehabilitation, nutrition, endocrine services, eye care, and child life, as well as:

  • Oncologists: doctors who diagnose and treat cancer
  • Radiation therapists: members of the care team who give radiation treatments
  • Pathologists: doctors who figure out what disease your child has by studying cells and tissues under a microscope
  • Radiologists: doctors who capture and make sense of pictures of the inside of your child’s body

Contact us

You can start the referral process by letting your physician know that you would like a second opinion from St. Jude. They can contact our 24-hour beeper service or contact our brain tumor coordinator. You may also contact the brain tumor coordinator directly with questions.

Brain tumor coordinator
Phone: 901-595-2544 or 901-595-1693, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. CST
Fax: 901-595-6211

Online: Brain Tumor Contact Form
24-hour pager: 1-800-349-433

Depending on your child’s tumor and where you live, you may be able to get care closer to home at one of our St. Jude Affiliate clinics.

Learn more about the types of brain tumors we treat at St. Jude.

See our brain tumor eligibility requirements for more information.


Learn more