Patient Kept Awake During Brain Surgery

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    Most patients are placed under complete anesthesia for something as complex as brain surgery, but a recent procedure called for the patient to stay awake and communicate with the doctors. Nesita Kwan reports. (Published Thursday, Jan 16, 2014)

    Many patients are put to sleep for something as complex as brain surgery, but not Josh Wickey.

    Doctors used only topical anesthesia for the 35-year-old's recent surgery, keeping him fully awake for the six hour procedure so that he could communicate with Northwestern Medicine neurosurgeon Matthew Tate.

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    Tate says a chunk of Wickey's brain the size of a tennis ball needed to come out, and it was imperative that he stay awake to help the doctors guide the process.

    "What does a patient absolutely have to have to be able to move their arm, or to be able to sense someone touching their leg or something like that?" Tate said. "We want to preserve the very fundamental things that you can't take out."

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    The doctors painstakingly stimulated numerous areas in Wickey's exposed brain, and when he tells them what he's feeling, it helps them map the brain. The information helps surgeons cut deeply but safely, and helped to remove almost all of the tumor.

    Three weeks after surgery, the staples were taken out. One of Wickey's biggest worries was that he wouldn't be able to play the guitar again, but doctors say in a few months, it'll be as if he didn't have surgery at all.