Awake Craniotomy

By Deane Barker on August 1, 2008

Awake patient reads aloud during brain surgery: An amazing account of brain surgery done like the patient is awake and reading a book. The doctors do this to “map” regions on the brain. They stimulate areas one-by-one with an electric probe, and if the patient’s reading falters, that tells them something.

The mapping alone took a couple of hours. Based on the information entered into a computer during mapping, the “hot spots” or risky areas, were displayed on a monitor. Once mapping was complete, Cohen took a paper list of groups of letters that represented basic brain functions, such as expression and movement.

With a pair of scissors, a nurse cut out the letters that corresponded to Mather-Licht’s “hot spots.” Cohen then placed the lettered pieces of paper directly on Mather-Licht’s brain, distinctly identifying the areas of risk. Once those were marked, he opened the brain’s outer membrane and, layer by layer, removed the tumor. Mather-Licht felt no pain — the brain itself has no pain receptors.

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