Life Science Woman plays violin during brain surgery to retain her musical skills
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Woman plays violin during brain surgery to retain her musical skills

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A patient in a UK hospital has played the violin while undergoing brain surgery to ensure that crucial hand movement and co-ordination skills were not damaged by doctors.

The successful operation to remove a tumour was performed at King’s College Hospital in London on 53-year-old Dagmar Turner, a violinist in the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra.

Ms Turner was brought out of anaesthesia in the middle of the procedure on January 31 to play the instrument.

According to a King’s College Hospital press release, the tumour removed was in her right frontal lobe, near an area that controls the fine movement in her left hand.

The operation was overseen by Professor Keyoumars Ashkan, consultant neurosurgeon at King’s College Hospital, who opened Ms Turner’s skull before she was awoken by anaesthesiologists and a therapist.

brain-surgery-violin
Patients have been awoken by surgeons mid-operation to test language skills, but being asked to play a musical instrument is rare. Photo: AP

Although patients have been prompted to perform language tests during tumour removals, this was the first time that anyone had been asked to play a musical instrument.

Professor Ashkan, who holds a degree in music and is an accomplished pianist, came up with a tailored plan to preserve Ms Turner’s musical skills while fulfilling the millimetre-precise needs of the operation.

“We knew how important the violin is to Dagmar, so it was vital that we preserved function in the delicate areas of her brain that allowed her to play,” Professor Ashkan said.

“We managed to remove over 90 per cent of the tumour, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand.”

Three days after the operation, Ms Turner was released from hospital.

She returned home to her husband and son, with her violin skills apparently intact after more than 40 years of playing.

“Professor Ashkan and the team at King’s went out of their way to plan the operation – from mapping my brain, to planning the position I needed to be in to play,” Ms Turner said.

Thanks to them I’m hoping to be back with my orchestra very soon.”

“The thought of losing my ability to play was heartbreaking but, being a musician himself, Professor Ashkan understood my concerns.”

Located in south London, King’s College Hospital performs around 400 surgeries to remove brain tumours each year.

-ABC

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