While undergoing a nine-hour operation to remove a brain tumor on Oct. 10, a patient at Rome’s Paideia International Hospital played the saxophone.

The relaxing strains of a saxophone could be heard streaming from an operation room at Rome’s Paideia International Hospital earlier this month. The music was coming from a patient on the operating table playing the woodwind, while a team of surgeons to remove a tumor from his brain.

Yes, he was awake—and stayed so for the whole of the nine-hour procedure. The 35-year-old saxophonist’s performance was required for the team to navigate the man’s brain and avoid harming the areas he needed to continue playing the instrument, according to Christian Brogna, a neurosurgeon who conducted the procedure.

“Each individual is unique because each brain is unique,” Brogna explained, adding that in order to customize a successful operation, he needed to understand the patient’s “wishes” and lifestyle.

It is not rare for patients to remain conscious throughout brain surgery. It can aid surgeons in mapping their brains and working around regions responsible for speech, memory, and other vital everyday functions, while local anesthetics allow people to stay awake and pain-free. We have seen patients playing the guitar, violin, and even singing opera during surgery in recent years. Other saxophonists have also graced the operating table.

Brogna, who conducts roughly 50 awake treatments each year, stated that playing a musical instrument integrates a variety of very sophisticated brain processes such as hand-eye coordination, motor abilities, and even math.

According to him, the saxophonist’s tumour was positioned in the areas responsible for physical movement, which are difficult to operate on.

The fact that this patient was left-handed made the procedure even more difficult. Brogna explained that his brain anatomy differed from that of a right-handed individual, making mapping more challenging.

During the procedure, the individual, identified only by the letters G.Z., played the theme from the 1970 film “Love Story” as well as the Italian national song, according to Brogna.

According to him, his team meticulously analysed those songs before to the procedure since any erroneous note, shift in rhythm, or abrupt halt may indicate that the surgeon was investigating a region that needed to be avoided.

According to Brogna, the Oct. 10 procedures, which included an international team of more than ten medical specialists, was finally successful.

According to him, tests revealed that the tumour had been fully removed, and the patient was able to return home three days later to his wife and two children. His functions were all normal, including his saxophone playing.

Brogna stated that the guy wanted to inform news outlets that having a brain tumour removed was “not necessarily a negative experience,” that he was comfortable and calm throughout the process, and that he trusted Brogna and his colleagues.

Brogna, for his part, spoke of the “extremely strong connection” and sense of teamwork he had throughout the surgeries with this and other patients.

He also stated that, in addition to assisting with the man’s surgery, the saxophone playing helped him better his understanding of the human brain—which will aid him in future procedures.

“Each operation of this type is a window into the intricacy of the brain, and we continually learn from all of these procedures,” he added.

“This is the saxophone now,” he added, “but it can be anything important for the patient.”

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