A patient at King’s College Hospital in London has played the violin while surgeons removed a tumour from her brain.
The unusual approach was taken to ensure areas of the patient’s brain responsible for delicate hand movement and coordination – crucial components when playing violin – were not inadvertently damaged during the millimetre-precise procedure.
The patient was diagnosed with a large grade 2 glioma after suffering a seizure during a symphony.
After the patient explained concerns she had over losing the ability to play the violin, Prof Ashkan and the neurosurgical team at King’s devised a plan. Prior to Dagmar’s operation they spent two hours carefully mapping her brain to identify areas that were active when she played the violin and those responsible for controlling language and movement. They also discussed the idea of waking her mid-procedure so she could play. This would ensure the surgeons did not damage any crucial areas of the brain that controlled her delicate hand movements specifically when playing the instrument. With her agreement, a team of surgeons, anaesthetists and therapists went on to meticulously plan the procedure.
During the operation Prof Ashkan and the team performed a craniotomy (an opening in the skull) and she was brought round from the anaesthetic. She played violin while her tumour was removed, while closely monitored by the anaesthetists and a therapist.
Following the procedure Prof Ashkan said, “King’s is one of the largest brain tumour centres in the UK. We perform around 400 resections (tumour removals) each year, which often involves rousing patients to carry out language tests, but this was the first time I’ve had a patient play an instrument.”
“We knew how important the violin is to Dagmar so it was vital that we preserved function in the delicate areas of her brain that allowed her to play. We managed to remove over 90 percent of the tumour, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand.”