Musician plays guitar to aid surgeons in awake craniotomy

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Manzini

Musa Manzini

Musician Musa Manzini played notes on his guitar while undergoing a Durban operation to remove a brain tumour. The Guardian quotes Dr Rohen Harrichandparsad, one of the neurosurgeons as saying that Musa Manzini’s guitar-playing helped guide the medical team in their delicate task while preserving neural pathways. “It increased the margin of safety for us, in that we could have real-time feedback on what we were doing,” Harrichandparsad said.

The report says Manzini was given local anaesthetic during what doctors call an awake craniotomy at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban. The procedure is not uncommon, and there have been several cases in other countries of musicians playing an instrument or singing during similar operations. In 2015, a musician played his saxophone during brain surgery in Spain, and an opera singer sang during a brain operation in the Netherlands in 2014.

The intention was to test Manzini’s ability to produce music, which requires a complex interaction of pathways in the brain, Harrichandparsad said. The patient was given his guitar toward the end of the hours-long procedure.

A photo and video taken by the medical team show Manzini lying with his guitar in the operating room. “There you are, do your thing,” a team member says as he begins playing. Manzini slowly picks out a series of notes and eases toward a tune, with the beeping of monitors as accompaniment.

The report says in an awake craniotomy, some doctors stimulate parts of the brain with a mild electrical current to test and map areas that control key functions such as movement and speech. If a patient struggles to speak when the current is applied to a particular area, doctors know they must protect it during the removal of the tumour.

Dr Basil Enicker, another neurosurgeon who operated on Manzini, said 90% of the tumour had been removed and that the musician was doing well at his home near Durban. “Our main aim was to make sure that we do the best that we can for our patient,” Enicker said.

The Guardian report

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