Did you know that you can watch your own brain during brain surgery? In fact, you can watch your visual cortex, the part of your brain that processes visual stimuli, while your neurosurgeon is working on your brain. It may seem odd that the brain can watch itself on a screen, but advances in science have made this possible.
There are two elements of brain surgery that make it possible for the patient to watch their brain during surgery. These include the ability to conduct surgery while the patient is awake and conscious, and the use of intraoperative imaging tools.
Awake brain surgery
Awake brain surgery, also known as intraoperative brain mapping, allows neurosurgeons to operate on the brain when the patient is awake. This procedure is possible because the brain does not feel pain, hence local anaesthesia is often used during brain surgery. Intraoperative brain mapping is important in cases where areas to be operated on are in or near the eloquent cortex — the part of the brain that if damaged, the patient can suffer serious problems in vision, speech, or movement. Awake brain surgery allows neurosurgeons to operate on critical parts of the brain while monitoring the patient's response during the procedure. Working with anaesthesiologists, neurosurgeons can choose to keep the patient awake throughout the surgery or sedate them during the opening of the skull and awake during the surgical procedure.
In modern practice, neurosurgeons can image the brain during surgical operations. Intraoperative imaging allows neurosurgeons to view magnified images of small brain parts on a screen. Imaging during neurosurgery also allows medical staff including nurses and anaesthesiologists to see the procedure. This also means that patients who are having awake brain surgery can view their brains and watch the surgical procedure.
Neurosurgeons can use different modalities to image the brain during neurosurgery. One way to display the brain on a screen is to attach a camera to the microscope used to magnify the brain anatomy during surgery. Technological advancements in brain surgery have also resulted in image-guided neurosurgery, where different imaging modalities are used to guide neurosurgeons through a surgical procedure. During image-guided neurosurgery, neurosurgeons use MRI, CT, PET, and SPECT scans to study the brain anatomy and plan the trajectory of the surgery while operating on the brain. Image-guided neurosurgery allows neurosurgeons, theatre staff, and patients to watch what is happening to the brain during a surgical procedure.
The possibility of watching your own brain during neurosurgery depends on the type of surgery, whether it can be done while the patient is awake, and whether imaging tools can be used during the procedure. The neurosurgeon can advise on this issue during the planning stage of brain surgery.
For more information about surgery, contact a local surgeon.