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Exploring Awake Brain Surgery
Brain surgery can be scary and complicated but there have been many advances including brain surgery where the patient is awake.
Brain Mapping is an advanced form of brain surgery or neurosurgical procedure which helps to identify which parts of the brain control which functions of the body. This type of surgery is usually used for those patients who are suffering from certain kinds of brain tumor or epileptic seizures (where the diseased tissue is close to areas of the brain that control a person's vision, language and body movements). Prior to surgery beginning the patient is sedated and numbing medications are used which ensure that the patient feels no pain during the procedure. Whilst the surgery is being carried out the patient's head is placed in a comfortable fixed position (so to ensure that the head is kept still and the brain surgery can be completed accurately). At a specific time during the surgery being carried the patient will be woken up and whilst the surgeon stimulates the patient's brain they will be asked questions by a speech pathologist or asked to complete a set of movements by a neurologist. In some cases the patient may be asked to look at a set of cards and identify what objects appear on them, other may be asked to count numbers whilst some may just be asked to raise a finger. Both prior to the surgery taking place and whilst the surgery is taking place the medical team will use three-dimensional computer images as a guide in brain mapping. This is especially critical as at present there is no way in which the brains connections can be tracked using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) scans. What a neuro surgeon does it maps the brain by marking each area that he has identified as being a function part of the brain and whilst surgery is taking place he will endeavor to precisely remove as much of the damaged brain tissue as possible as shown on the computer images and by the responses he receives from the patient being treated. Another option which can be used with certain kinds of awake brain surgery is Stereotactic Radio Surgery and is usually used for patients suffering from epilepsy. With this kind of surgery the medical team may purposefully reproduce a seizure in a patient (in a controlled setting) in order to help map out the brain and identify the tissue that is affected by the epileptic seizures the patient is suffering from. The most critical factor of any kind of awake brain surgery for the patient so that it is successful is that they have a highly trained and experienced neuroanestesiologist who has been specifically trained in this field of surgery who can administer the medication so that the patient feels no pain whilst the surgery takes place.