News : 2011 : October

Patient kept awake during brain surgery

10.05.2011
The Miami Herald
By Fred Tasker

While undergoing delicate brain surgery, patient Ray Beccaria spent much of the four-hour operation chatting with his surgeons. Anesthesiologist Dr. Thomas Fuhrman performed the equally delicate task of keeping Beccaria calm and comfortable but still awake enough to speak.

The procedure, at the University of Miami School of Medicine, was used because Beccaria had an aggressive brain tumor a half inch below the surface of his brain, on the left side. Neurosurgeon Dr. Ricardo Komotar had cut a square hole in his skull nearly two inches across, and needed to get down to the big, two-inch tumor without damaging any part of the brain that controlled language, movement, sight and so on.

With the help of neurologist Dr. Bruno Gallo, the surgical team used an electrical probe to stimulate various parts of Beccaria’s brain. If his ability to count and speak began to deteriorate, Komotar stopped cutting there and moved his scalpel to another area.

“It’s a delicate thing,” Komotar said. “We had to keep him not totally awake, but awake enough to speak.”

The four-hour operation removed all visible signs of the tumor, probably prolonging his prognosis, Komotar said. The procedure has been around for several years, but is seldom used because of the skilled teamwork required, he said.