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Musician in Bengaluru plays guitar during his own brain surgery

A Bengaluru techie-turned-musician has played the guitar while surgeons operating 'musician's dystonia', a neurological muscle disorder that causes involuntary muscle contractions, cramping three fingers on his left hand.


By   |  Updated On : July 23, 2017 11:53 AM
32-year-old Bengaluru techie-turned-musician has played the guitar while surgeons operating 'musician's dystonia'.

32-year-old Bengaluru techie-turned-musician has played the guitar while surgeons operating 'musician's dystonia'.

New Delhi :  

Musicians can display their talent anywhere, from a beach to a park bench to an operating room -- while undergoing brain surgery.

In an unusual manner, a techie-turned-musician played the guitar in a seven-hour-long surgery while doctors operated on him. The guitarist was operated for 'musician's dystonia', termed as a movement disorder.

Since the man suffered from the problem only while playing the guitar, he was asked to play the guitar while everytime doctors "burnt" a circuit in his brain to cure 'musician's dystonia'.

What is Musician's dystonia?

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder. It is caused by the brain sending incorrect information to the muscles and is characterised by involuntary, prolonged muscle contractions, which cause affected parts of the body to be twisted into abnormal postures. It can affect a range of parts of the body including the neck, eyes, voice and hand.  

Dystonia has a variety of causes – but dystonias affecting the hand are often caused by performing repeated hand movements. Men are more commonly affected by musician’s dystonia than women with estimates of the ratio ranging from 2:1 to 6:1.

Research has identified musicians who have intensively practiced their instruments over a number of years are a group most affected by this condition; usually the diagnosis is made when the person is in her/his 20s to 40s.

Musician’s dystonia can easily be misdiagnosed as simple overuse or stress of the hand. Although it may not be obvious at first sight, the dystonia is caused not by strain of the hand but by the brain. The cause is believed to be that the repetitive hand movement results in remapping of the receptive fields in the cortex of the brain.

"By the sixth burn, my fingers opened up. I was normal on the operating table itself", Abhishek said after doctors removed the stitches on his head, a week after his operation in Bangalore. I was able to play with ease after the surgery, he added.

The condition causes painful spasms, twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures.

Musician's dystonia had abandon him from moving his middle, ring and little finger of his left hand when he played the guitar.

"I thought the stiffness was because of over practice. I took a break and tried againand realised that there was no respite from the stiffness. Some doctors told me it was a muscle fatigue and I was given painkillers, multi-vitamin, antibiotics, physiotherapy etc and spasms in his fingers occured only when he played the guitar, he explained.

But a neurologist correctly diagnosed nine months ago that the was suffering from dystonia. "I was advised to undergo brain surgery, but I got scared. But my doctor, Sharan Srinivasan, gave me the confidence to do it," he said.

The musician said he remembered every detail of the procedure. The doctors fixed a frame with four screws on his head to cut open his skulls before conducting an MRI scan. "The scan helped assesing how deep the electrodes could be inserted to correct the circuits inside the brain." 

Dr Srinivasan explained "that the patient does not feel pain because the opertion was done under local anaesthesia". "He was fully awake all through, and the result was available on the operating table beacuse his fingers had started moving normally on the guitar", he added.

First Published: Saturday, July 22, 2017 11:03 AM
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