Neurosurgical Team Performs Sabah's First Brain Surgery While Patient Is Awake & Singing

The team had begun discussing the procedure for the 50-year-old patient's surgery since November 2022.

Cover image via Jabatan Kesihantan Negeri Sabah (Facebook) & Science Photo Library

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The first fully conscious brain surgery, also known as "awake craniotomy", in Sabah was performed at Queen Elizabeth 2 Hospital last Thursday, 12 January

In a media statement, Sabah health director Dr Rose Nani Mudin said the procedure was done by a team of surgeons from Queen Elizabeth 2 Hospital (HQE2) and University Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

"The patient is a 50-year-old woman who has been experiencing headaches since October 2022 and was diagnosed with multiple meningioma on the left side of her brain," she said yesterday, 15 January.

The surgical team was led by HQE2 neurosurgeons Dr M Sofan Zenian and Dr Hezry Abu Hasan, UMS's Medicine and Health Sciences Faculty's brain anaesthesiologist Dr Yeap Boon Tat, and Sungai Buloh Hospital's senior consultant neurosurgeon Dr Liew Boon Seng.

The primary team that led the awake craniotomy at Queen Elizabeth 2 Hospital.

Image via Jabatan Kesihatan Negeri Sabah (Facebook)

The team had begun preparing and discussing the procedure for the 50-year-old patient since November 2022

As the patient's condition had become worse due to the disorder, Rose said the team decided to do the "awake craniotomy" procedure on her so she could live a better quality of life.

According to the National Library of Medicine, the most important benefit of awake craniotomy is that it allows the surgeon to remove as much of a patient's brain tumour as possible, without touching the functional parts.

Throughout the six-hour surgery, the patient was told to say her name or sing a short song to make sure that she remained awake while being given anaesthetic in certain amount of doses.

"After the operation, the patient only complained of a mild headache and was able to drink water. She was able to consume soft meals the following day," stated Rose.

The whole surgical team that performed the awake craniotomy.

Image via Jabatan Kesihatan Negeri Sabah (Facebook)

The awake craniotomy procedure was first introduced in the early 2000s

Rose also stated that patients who suffer from cerebral aneurysms, extradural haemorrhages, and chronic subdural haemorrhagse could also benefit from the same surgery.

The procedure started as early as 2010 in Malaysia at several government hospitals such as Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital, Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Sungai Buloh Hospital, and Sultanah Aminah Hospital.

In October last year, a 35-year-old musician in Italy played his saxophone while neurosurgeons removed a tumour from his brain:

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