Patient plays violin during brain tumor removal

An orchestra violinist played her instrument during an operation to remove a brain tumor at King’s College Hospital in London on Jan. 31, ensuring the musician’s hand movement and coordination were not accidentally damaged by surgeons.

Dagmar Turner, 53, was diagnosed with a slow-growing tumor in 2013 after she had a seizure during a symphony, according to a King’s College Hospital press release. Turner had radiotherapy but later turned to surgery after the tumor had “grown and become more aggressive” in 2019.

The glioma tumor was in Turner’s right frontal lobe, near a sector that controls the fine movement in her left hand.

During the operation, Professor Keyoumars Ashkan, consultant neurosurgeon at King’s College Hospital, performed a craniotomy (opening the skull) and Turner was brought out of anesthesia to play the violin while her tumor was removed, under the watchful eye of the anaesthesiologists and a therapist, the press release said.

“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 tumour, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand.”

— Professor Keyoumars Ashkan

Ashkan said while patients have often been asked to perform language tests during tumor removals, this was the first time he had a patient play an instrument.

“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 tumour, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand," said Prof. Ashkan.

Footage provided by King’s College Hospital shows Turner playing the violin during the operation as medics closely monitor her.

“The violin is my passion; I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old. 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.”

— Dagmar Turner

“The violin is my passion; I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old," said Dagmar Turner. "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.”

Dagmar was released from the hospital three days after the operation.

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