Patient Plays Violin During Brain Surgery To Preserve Her Skills

by Madison Vanderberg
Originally Published: 
Patient Plays Violin During Brain Surgery To Preserve Her Skills
London Neurosurgery Partnership/Twitter

Woman plays the violin during brain surgery at London hospital

Typically during brain surgery, patients are awake for all or part of it. Doctors will usually ask patients to speak during brain surgery to make sure they don’t mess up the part of the brain that lets you talk and do other basic motor skills (I know that “don’t mess up” is not a medical term, just go with me here). But for one patient in London who needed surgery to remove a brain tumor, she was more concerned with her ability to play the violin after the procedure, so her surgeon had her play the instrument mid-surgery, marking the first brain surgery concert at King’s College Hospital.

Dagmar Turner, a 53-year-old management consultant who also plays violin in the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra, had a tumor removed at King’s College Hospital in London, but as her neurosurgeon, Keyoumars Ashkan, said in a press release, it was the first of more than 400 resections (tumor removals) he’s performed where a patient played an instrument in the operating room.

It’s true that we hear stories of people’s personalities changing after a major head injury or surgery, so Turner was incredibly upfront with her doctor and made sure the surgery to remove her brain tumor wouldn’t affect her ability to play the violin.

As Dagmar played and the surgeons operated on her right frontal lobe, doctors paid close attention to Dagmar’s hands to make sure she could still do the delicate hand movements necessary to play the violin.

“We knew how important the violin is to Dagmar so it was vital that we preserved function in the delicate areas of her brain that allowed her to play. We managed to remove over 90 percent of the tumor, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity while retaining full function in her left hand,” Professor Ashkan said.

Seeing as this was the first surgery of its kind for Ashkan and his team, Turner says she was incredibly grateful they were able to accommodate her like they did.

“The violin is my passion; I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old,” she said. “The thought of losing my ability to play was heart-breaking but, being a musician himself, Prof Ashkan understood my concerns. He and the team at King’s went out of their way to plan the operation — from mapping my brain to planning the position I needed to be in to play. Thanks to them I’m hoping to be back with my orchestra very soon.”

Warning: If surgery scenes make you squeamish, look away now.

This is the wildest episode of House that never aired.

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