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National brain tumour research funding needs to increase to £30-35 million a year

Awake craniotomy – a wonder of modern medicine

Last night, Channel 4 documentary Brain Surgeons: Between Life and Death gave viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a fascinating surgery used to remove brain tumours.

Awake craniotomy is a technique used to reduce the risks that come with operating on the brain. With brain tumours, a neurosurgeon will normally choose to perform this type of surgery when the tumour involves, or is close to, the parts of the brain that control vision, movement or speech in order to preserve these and avoid potentially life-changing damage.

Patients are given a general anaesthetic while part of their skull is removed, before being woken up during the actual removal of the tumour and asked to perform a series of tests. These tests help the surgeon to map the safest route to remove the tumour and, crucially, determine how much of it is safe to remove without causing damage that would have a severe impact on the patient’s quality of life.

Brain Tumour Research supporter James Hinnigan (pictured) allowed us to film his awake craniotomy to remove the low-grade glioma on his brain. James’ surgery was conducted by Kevin O’Neill, who leads the team at our Centre of Excellence at Imperial College London and you can watch the video here.

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