Brain surgery patient filmed playing violin during operation

Dagmar Turner was woken up after her skull was removed and played the violin while surgeons removed her aggressive brain tumour

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 18 February 2020 14:09 GMT
Patient plays violin while undergoing brain surgery

A patient at King’s College Hospital in London has played the violin while surgeons operated on her brain to remove a tumour.

The medical team asked Dagmar Turner, 53, to play the violin to ensure parts of the brain which control delicate hand movements and coordination were not damaged during the millimetre-precise surgery.

Ms Turner, a former management consultant from the Isle of Wight, was diagnosed in 2013 with a brain tumour after suffering a seizure during a symphony.

The committed violinist, who plays in Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra, was worried the surgery would mean she would lose the ability to play.

Her tumour was located in the right frontal lobe of her brain, close to an area that controls the fine movement of her left hand.

Professor Keyoumars Ashkan, consultant neurosurgeon at King’s College Hospital, came up with a plan to operate and reduce the risk.

The brain tumour specialist holds a degree in music and is an accomplished pianist and shared Ms Turner’s desire to save her musical skills.

Prior to surgery, doctors spent two hours carefully mapping her brain to identify areas that were active when she played the violin and those responsible for controlling language and movement.

Surgeons performed a craniotomy and opened her skull, before waking her from the anaesthetic.

Ms Turner played violin while her tumour was removed, while closely monitored by the anaesthetists and a therapist.

Prof 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.”

Ms Turner added: “The violin is my passion; I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old. The thought of losing my ability to play was heartbreaking.”

Three days after the procedure Ms Turner was well enough to go home to her husband and son.

King’s College Hospital, in south London performs around 400 surgeries to remove brain tumours each year and often wake patients to carry out language tests.

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