Indianapolis: Imagine being wide awake, reading aloud while surgeons open your skull. Senator Ted Kennedy recently experienced a similar type of surgery.
So did a teenager who got his tumor removed from his brain.
Conor Mather-Licht is a 19-year-old boy who has a brain tumor. Although Conor had been suffering mini seizures for nearly three years, he did not realize he had a problem until last spring, when he went to dinner with friends. He couldn't read the menu
Conor said, "I felt it was different. I could sort of read it but I couldn't understand everything."
A month later, doctors diagnosed a glioma tumor located above his left ear. The growth was sometimes interfering with Conor's ability to read.
It was pressing on certain sensory nerves because his tumor was located in a very delicate area of the brain.
His doctor recommended Conor undergo an open brain surgery known as an awake craniotomy.
The doctor said that to be able to remove the tumor in the best fashion, they need to find out where those critical functions are and awake brain mapping helps them to do that.
The procedure is conducted with the patient heavily sedated but remaining conscious so doctors can map the brain.
By pressing on certain nerves and talking to the patient, the surgeon can tell what areas are sensitive and need to be avoided during surgery while actually reading Kurt Vonnegut out loud with a section of the patient’s brain completely exposed.
If the doctor pressed a sensitive area, Conor's reading would be affected, indicating his surgeon that it is an area to avoid.
During the process, the surgeon talks to patient say things such as ‘are you with us’ or ‘I cannot understanding what you are reading’.
Once the brain is mapped, the surgeon opens the membrane and removes the tumor while the patient is still awake.
The procedure, which lasts about five hours usually requires only a few days of recovery.
It actually took Conor about a week and a half to recover because his tumor was rather large covering a wide area.
However, when he left the hospital, he could speak and read and was making great progress and his tumor was benign.
His doctor, Dr Cohen, believes he will be able to go back to college this month with no problems.