Health Team

Some Surgeries Best Done With Patients Awake

Posted December 19, 2007

— In the movie "Awake" – a patient lives a surgical nightmare. The anesthesia wears off while he is in the operating room.

This has actually happened to patients, but it is rare. However, there are surgical procedures where the doctor wants the patient to be awake.

Ronnie Locklear had a low-grade brain tumor. The 51-year-old was kept awake when Duke Neurosurgeon Dr. John Sampson operated on his brain. Being awake lowers the risk of severing control of certain body movements.

“We probably do most of our brain tumor surgeries now awake,” Sampson said.

Locklear was asleep when his skull was opened and anesthesia blocked the pain of cutting through his scalp. He was awake, however, when Sampson cut into his brain.

“It [the brain] actually doesn't have any pain sensory nerves,” Sampson said.

Before Sampson cut, electrical probes located areas that controlled motor function, like the hand.

“The first thing I remember when opening my eyes. I saw the tube that had been inserted into my throat,” Locklear said. “I remember feeling some pressure, but I never had any pain and I constantly had to touch my fingers."

The surgery went well and the brain tumor was successfully taken out.

“He may live forever now without any recurrence of this tumor,” Sampson said.


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  • Irock Dec 21, 2007

    mph...sorry to hear about your cicumstance but you really have no clue to what youre talking about. Ive worked in neurosurgical icu for many years with a lot of brain surgeries which are not experimental. They remove brain tumors, they do coilling for anryseums, they put in bolts and shunts to relieve pressure everyday and i have seen a lot of people to go home and regain a good life. But... when the brain has been insulted for whatever reason its very difficult to become normal again. Its a very fragile and sensitive organ. Michael J Fox is on a crusade for Parkinsons research and some procedures are experimental until they learn more about the disease and what might help. You should be proud of your mom to go through with the procedure to try to help other people. very sorry that it didnt have a better outcome.

  • z24chick Dec 21, 2007

    I can't even use the screenname of the person I am replying to due to WRAL but you'll get the point:

    That's a pretty harsh statement to say NEVER have brain surgery.

    Yes, some doctor's do experiment and are probably not truthful to the patients BUT there are some doctor's who do practice truthfully and do HELP patients. I have worked as a surgical technologist and have seen brain surgery first hand. It is awesome and I have seen patients take it very well and live good lives after the fact.

  • WTFmph Dec 21, 2007

    My mom had brain surgery at Duke hospital to try to give her more function with her Parkinson's disease.

    Of course it didn't work. It immediately brought her function down into the gutter instead of up.

    Never let a "brain surgeon" butcher talk you into a procedure that cuts or penetrates a loved one's brain. They don't know what they're doing, and can only scramble things.

    These "doctors" like to experiment. It's easy for them to do that with really desperate people like Parkinson's victims. Especially when relatives are lining up for the inheritance, and push or encourage the victim into the procedure.

    NEVER let your loved one have brain surgery. IT IS EXPERIMENTAL.

  • Willow Wysp Dec 20, 2007

    *There is a certain type of Anesthesia that is you can actually wake up from surgery from*

    That should read There is a certain type of anesthesia that is used that you can actually wake up from during surgery.

    Sorry about that.

  • Willow Wysp Dec 20, 2007

    There is a certain type of Anesthesia that is you can actually wake up from surgery from, and from what my Anesthesiaologist (sp) told me when I had my surgery recently, they hardly even use that anymore and they keep you extremely well monitored during those that if you wake up, they will know and be able to put you back under very quickly. I have to agree with IRock, Hollywood has a way of over dramatizing stuff to the point that it's just fiction and no longer has any basis in fact.

  • Irock Dec 20, 2007

    Youre asleep when they cut (craniotomy), but then they wake you during brain mapping. Its pretty cool to see it. And to answer the question about seeing that awake i havent and i wont because hollywood makes it so unrealistic for those that work in the field. I wont watch Greys or ER or the like because so much of it just doesnt happen that way. Ive spent 20 years at a major local hospital in all areas.

  • gopanthers Dec 20, 2007

    I have never had nor do I know anyone who ever had brain surgery. I have however heard many times that in a lot of cases when they are doing brain surgery on someone they do keep you awake. Boy I hope I am never confronted with this. I don't know how I would react or what I would do. Nor do I wish this on anyone. I just can't imagine this at all. Just the noise of drill's and other equipment doctors use would be enough to scare me to death.

  • DavidJonathan Dec 19, 2007

    I was immobilized by the meds and unable to talk. My surgery was a nightmare. And the surgeon lied afterwards, even telling people I was imagining things because of the drugs!

  • robjustrob Dec 19, 2007

    Have any of you medical professionals seen that movie? Wondering what your take on it is. Nice prognosis, though - immortality. "...may live forever without a recurrence... " Forever?!!?