In what seems to be news straight out of a Grey’s Anatomy episode, a 32-year-old man from Bengaluru played the guitar while undergoing a seven-hour-long brain surgery. The man, a techie-turned-musician, was suffering from a condition called musician’s dystonia, a neurological muscle disorder that causes involuntary muscle contractions, cramping three fingers on his left hand, reported The Times of India.
The cramps first started a year and a half ago due to long hours of practice, and last week, the man went under the knife for it. Doctors asked him to play the guitar as they operated to help them locate the affected areas of the brain. The treatment involved opening up the skull and “burning” the parts of the brain that were causing the convulsions. Since the man suffered from the problem only while playing the guitar, he was asked to continue playing during the surgery to provide real-time response to help the doctors target the exact problem area and perform the procedure with precision.
Since the man suffered from the problem only while playing the guitar, he was asked to continue playing during the surgery to provide real-time response.
The TOI report quoted Dr Sharan Srinivasan, a stereotactic and functional neurosurgeon at the Jain Institute of Movement Disorders and Stereotactic Neurosurgery, as saying, “Before the surgery, a special frame was fixed to his head with four screws going deep into the skull following which an MRI was conducted.”
With the help of the MRI, three coordinates of the target area in the brain (8-9 cm deep, in this case), along with the entry point into the skull and the path to be followed during surgery, were identified. After that a 14 mm hole was drilled into the skull using local anaesthesia and a specialised electrode was passed into the brain. Stimulating it by playing the guitar confirmed the location of the problem and prevented future complications, TOI reported.
The operation was successful, and within three days, the man could return home to his life of music. “I was amazed to see my fingers improve magically on the operation table itself. By the end of the surgery, my fingers were 100% cured and I could move them like before,” TOI quoted him as saying.
In 2013, Brad Carter, an actor and musician, played the guitar while surgeons fitted a pacemaker in his brain to treat the hand tremors caused by his tumour.
Sounds shocking? It isn’t.
Patients playing music during complex brain surgery to provide immediate feedback to surgeons about possible effects on brain function is not a new thing. In 2013, Brad Carter, a Hollywood actor and musician, played the guitar while surgeons at UCLA fitted a pacemaker in his brain to treat the hand tremors caused by his tumour.
In 2015, a 33-year-old Brazilian man sang and played the guitar for six hours while undergoing surgery for his brain tumour to help his surgeons map the brain for possible loss of speech and motor functions.
In March this year, another 40-year-old man Brazilian man played the guitar in the middle of the operation and even rang up his wife mid-way to tell her he felt like a “warrior”. His surgeons too claimed this was the quickest way to find out if they had made any error or if any parts of the brain were affected while removing the tumour.
To understand how it works, watch this wonderful video by Consequence of Sound.
Suggest a correction