Your favorite guitar player most likely loves to bust out his/her instrument and play at the most random times. But what about playing in an operating room while undergoing brain surgery? That was exactly what Abhishek Prasad did when he recently peddled his music during a four-hour operation in India.
The 37-year-old musician was undergoing a medical procedure to correct cramping in his fingers when he was asked to pluck the strings all while he was being operated on. For 20 months before the July 11th procedure, Prasad had suffered from a neurological condition called musical dystonia.
“This is a form of a task-specific movement disorder, which comes out only when playing a musical instrument,” the man’s surgeon Dr. Sharan Srinivasan told CNN. “In his case … it was the cramping of three fingers—middle, ring and little—on his left hand because of the misfiring circuits in his brain.”
Apparently when Prasad played the guitar, his fingers would get stuck. But that isn’t the case anymore.
“It was a magical feeling—completely magical,” Prasad said of the first chords he played after the operation. “I wasn’t able to play for the past 20 months, and in a few seconds, my fingers were completely released, and I was able to play normally.”
He went on, “You have been struggling for 20 months to do something and, just in a few seconds, you are able to do that normally, how would you feel? It was magical, it was heaven.”
So how in the hell did this procedure actually go down and correct this issue? Why was the man awake during freakin’ brain surgery? Srinivasan performed “radiofrequency ablation” with local anesthetic to correct the condition. The treatment uses radiofrequency currents to destroy the part of the brain circuit triggering abnormal tremors. After fitting a frame to Prasad’s head and using a special MRI scan to map his brain, the doctor’s team relied on Prasad’s reactions to pinpoint the exact area that required burning.
“This is why the patient has to be fully awake during the surgery,” Srinivasan said. “He has to give me a real-time feedback.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, awake brain surgery dates to ancient times, when doctors sometimes drilled into patients’ skulls, presumably to relieve seizures or headaches.
“He was only under local anesthesia, which means wherever I made a cut in the skin, I give an injection, so that he doesn’t feel the pain,” the man’s doctor said. “The brain itself has no pain, only the skin or the top of the skull that is painful.”
Musical dystonia severe enough to impact performance affects about one percent of musicians, and anyone conducting repetitive tasks that stimulate the same brain circuit is prone to the condition.
“Patients think they have a psychological problem,” Srinivasan said. “They don’t know it’s a neurological circuit issue that can be fixed.”
After his surgery, Prasad stayed in the hospital for three days. He’s doing well now, and is actually planning on releasing a guitar-filled song next week. The man wastes no time.