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Patient plays saxophone through brain surgery at Málaga hospital
By thinkSPAIN Team Thu, Dec 17, 2015
A SPANISH hospital has removed a brain tumour from a patient who was conscious throughout the operation – and playing his saxophone.
Carlos Aguilera, 27, kept surgeons entertained with his music-making during his 12 hours in theatre, although this was not the aim of the exercise: by playing, doctors could see which parts of his brain were actively in use and could ensure they did not harm healthy parts when removing the lump.
The left-hand side of the brain is used for interpreting music, and playing an instrument – which Carlos does professionally in two bands – helps identify and signal the 'eloquent' areas of the brain tissue, such as the senses, motor functions, language and auditive cortex.
For parts of the operation, Carlos had to be heavily sedated with a local anaesthetic – such as the part where they cut his skull open and the actual tumour removal – but otherwise he only had a local anaesthetic for the parts being worked on.
“I've come back to life,” said the patient. “I was stuck in a bed two months ago.”
He was firstly given some sheet music to read on his saxophone, then asked to perform a piece of his choice.
Carlos opted for the jazz balad Misty, and later a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach.
The operation was performed at Málaga General Hospital with the help of three neurosurgeons, two neuropsychologists, three neurophysiologists, an anaesthetist, five nurses, an auxiliary nurse and a porter.
Two weeks later, he was discharged and is said to be recovering well with physiotherapy and home care.
His case has now come to light and hit international headlines, since it is the first operation of its kind ever to be carried out in Spain, although 12 other 'conscious' brain tumour surgical interventions have been executed in California, USA.
Earlier this year, pioneering 'brain surgery' was carried out on a woman via radio waves, meaning surgeons did not have to cut into her head.
She had suffered from a serious nervous condition which meant she was unable even to hold a pen or write her name, and which was getting worse.
The patient came out of theatre smiling and giving thumbs-up signs to the cameras.
Photograph by Andalucía regional health authority
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