A musician undergoing complex brain surgery in Italy played the saxophone during his entire 9-hour operation.

The team at Rome’s Paideia International Hospital operated on the 35-year-old man, identified only as GZ, in order to remove his brain tumor. The patient underwent an “awake surgery,” so doctors could ensure they wouldn’t compromise his neurological functions, the hospital said in a press release.

“Each brain is unique, as is each person,” surgery leader and neurosurgeon Dr. Christian Brogna said.

“Awake surgery makes it possible to map with extreme precision during surgery the neuronal networks that underlie the various brain functions such as playing, speaking, moving, remembering, counting.”

GZ told surgeons that his musical ability is his most prized function, Brogna told CBS. Allowing GZ to play the saxophone during “awake surgery” proved useful to the team, the neurosurgeon said, because it allowed them to witness the brain functions he utilized to play.

Surgeons operate on the man who played a saxophone through the nine-hour brain surgery
The patient underwent “awake surgery” to avoid having neurological functions compromised.
Paideia International Hospital

During the lengthy procedure, GZ played the theme song from the 1970 movie “Love Story,” and the Italian national anthem, at various times throughout the surgery. 

GZ later told the hospital he felt tranquility rather than fear during his surgery, which lasted over nine hours. CBS reported that he returned to his normal life after the surgery.

More than 10 medical professionals benefitted from GZ’s playing as they worked. The complex surgery was supplemented by numerous advanced technologies, including a specific tracer that helps differentiate cancer cells from surrounding healthy tissue.

“Every awake surgery not only allows to obtain the maximum result in terms of removal of the pathology, but it is a real discovery,” Brogna said. “Each time it offers us a window into the functioning of this fascinating, but still in many ways mysterious organ, which is the brain.”



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