The prospect of brain surgery is enough to strike fear into the bravest of people. But when the surgery is to be performed while the patient is wide awake and talking, it is doubly tense for the patient and his surgeons. The first awake brain surgery, also called brain mapping, in the Gulf was performed recently on a 38-year-old man at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) in Abu Dhabi.
The patient was admitted with severe epileptic seizures, an inability to speak normally and paralysis on the right side of his body. A multi-disciplinary team of doctors led by Dr Maher Mansour, a consultant neurosurgeon at SKMC, removed a brain tumour during the six-hour surgery, Because the tumour had developed near the part of the brain responsible for vocalisation and speech, there was a risk that the patient could lose his ability to speak if certain cells were damaged or accidentally removed.
"For [this] reason, it was indicated to do this procedure with the patient awake, in order to assess him while we do electrical stimulation on the region we wanted to remove, ensuring that no cells from the normal brain are removed," Dr Mansour said. Brain surgery is always risky due to the complex nerve and cell structures involved and the specific functions that are associated with particular areas.
A team of speech therapists was also in the operating theatre to track the patient's responses. Doctors sedated the patient, who was under local anaesthetic. Dr Mansour said the hospital was prepared to perform this type of brain surgery again. "We have the specific technology for this kind of procedure and having successfully done it once, we would like to say that we can do it again in the future," he said.