To ensure that they were not damaging an area essential for playing music, the surgeons woke the patient up during her operation.
It is not every day that they work in music. In January 2020, neurosurgeons at King’s College Hospital in London operated on a woman while playing the violin. For doctors, the objective was to manage to remove a brain tumour from him by avoiding inadvertently damaging the areas involved in the movements of his left hand. A delicate operation, which has removed more than 90% of the tumour volume, as explained by the hospital in a press release.
In 2013, Dagmar Turner, a former management consultant who is now 53 years old, learned that she had a stage 2 extended glioma, a type of brain tumour that evolves quite slowly. For several years, Dagmar has been subject to close medical surveillance. But in the fall of 2019, doctors find that the tumour has grown and that it becomes more aggressive. Surgical removal is required.
operating on an awake patient: a frequent practice
The tumour is located in the right front lobe (in front and on the right of the brain), very close to a crucial area for the control of the subtle movements of the left hand. The operation is risky: the slightest misstep by surgeons can make Dagmar lose the use of his hand. But this is essential to his violin practice, his passion. The 50-year-old is also a member of the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra in the south of England. “The violin is my passion: I have been playing it since the age of 10. The idea of ?? ?? not being able to play anymore broke my heart” said Ms Turner.
The doctors then have an idea: wake up the musician in the middle of the operation to make her play and thus ensure that they do not touch a sensitive area. This technique is more and more frequently used in brain surgery. The patients, who are first asleep while accessing the tumour, are then awakened and subjected to motor or language tests. By this means, the surgeon can immediately know the impact of the slightest gesture on the brain of his patient.
“We perform around 400 resections (removal of tumours, editor’s note) per year, which often involves waking patients to respond to language tests,” said Professor Ashkan himself a pianist. “But it was the first time that I played an instrument to a patient. ” According to him, 90% of the tumour was removed, “including all the areas suspected of aggressive activity”, while allowing the violinist to “keep full use of her left hand. Thanks to them, I hope to be able to return to my orchestra very soon. Turner, who left the hospital three days after her operation and was able to find her husband and 13-year-old son.