Health

Awake During Surgery? For Some People, They Have No Choice.

I don't know about you, but I would definitely question my doctor's sanity if he asked me to remain AWAKE during brain surgery.  Then again, what do I know, I'm not a doctor.

Imagine being a participant in your own brain surgery: You're lying on the table, as the doctors carefully cut into your skull. Of course, you don't feel a thing, because you're under local anesthetic. Then, the anesthesiologist wakes you in the middle of the surgery, so you can help the surgeon navigate your brain.

The surgeon asks you to name the days of the week, count, and answer simple questions. Sure, after a while this gets annoying - but that's a good sign, it means you're alert and the surgeon hasn't accidentally gone where they shouldn't.

This type of surgery - open brain surgery or awake brain surgery - is helpful for removing tumors close to the areas of the brain that control speech and motor function.

Check out this incredible clip of Naomi Elishuv as she plays the violin during her brain surgery in 2014:


Naomi was diagnosed with essential tremor twenty years before. The condition causes uncontrollable tremble in the body, making it impossible for her to continue playing with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra.

It's amazing how her playing improves after the electrode was implanted!

By communicating with surgeons during these delicate surgeries, patients are actually helping doctors add to their understanding of the brain structures and how they are slightly different from person to person.

In December 2015, 27-year-old Carlos Aguilera, a Spanish saxophonist, played for surgeons as they removed his brain tumor.

Check out this incredible clip of his "jazz surgery":


Humans are pretty amazing - aren't we? If you want to read a more in-depth article and video about what it's really like for a patient, check out this piece by Time Magazine.

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