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Why a woman played violin during surgery to remove a tumour from her brain

A woman in the UK has made headlines after playing violin throughout surgery to remove a tumour from her brain.

Professional musician, Dagmar Turner, was the first to play an instrument while undergoing brain surgery in the UK, but the same feat has also been successfully completed in the US.

Senior neurosurgeon at the Epworth Richmond, Associate Professor Graeme Brazenor, explained why Ms Turner remained awake throughout the surgery.

“We do do surgery with people awake, particularly when we’re trying to reset things that are near what we call eloquent areas,” he told 3AW’s Dee Dee.

“If it’s speech, or in this case it was near the motor area that controls her left hand, you really can’t tell where you are in relation to these things if the patient is unconscious and you’re just looking at the brain.

“The only way you can be sure that you’re not encroaching on one of these eloquent areas is to have the patient awake and using that part of their brain that you’re trying to preserve.”

Mr Brazenor said it’s not uncommon for patients to be kept awake and asked to perform basic speech exercises during surgery, but playing an instrument is highly unusual.

“The hardest thing in this exercise would have been to position her so that she could finger the frets on the violin with her left hand and work the bow with the right. I’m not sure how they would have done that!,” he said.

“I bet she didn’t play it very well because she’s on her side with her head held in a metal pin clamp!”

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Image: Picture Alliance / Getty Images