Awake During Brain Surgery

I don’t remember much about my brain surgery, but I remember telling an anesthesiologist I have no interest in being awake during any part of the surgery. I believe I also mentioned my strong preference to stay asleep for an entire year after surgery to make sure the surgery was over before I awoke. Shortly thereafter, when it was time for the surgeons to install my shunt, a surgeon entered the operating room a few minutes prior to the surgery and asked if I wanted to see the tools he was planning to use during the surgery. I remember looking at the surgeon as if there was no worse question he could have possibly asked. I have difficulty imagining that some people actually choose to be awake during brain surgery, but they do and their surgeries have been tremendously successful.

In the following video, we see an example of how the combination of being awake during brain surgery and deep brain stimulation greatly improves a patient’s quality of life:

Warning: The following video includes clips from an actual brain surgery. If seeing brain surgery, incisions, blood, surgical tools, or medical rooms makes you uncomfortable, do NOT watch the following video.


  • If you had the option of seeing surgery tools prior to surgery, would you?
  • If you were asked to stay awake during brain surgery, how would your respond?

Thanks to Eddie and Martha AdcockNeurosurgeon Joseph Neimat, MD; Vanderbilt University Medical Center; ABC News; Good Morning America; Patricia Reed; Neurosurgeon Meg Verrees, MD; Community Regional Medical Center; YouTube; and the numerous other people who made it possible to share the stories and videos I included in this post.


    1. Stanley, I don’t get to see a banjo played every day, the fact that someone played while undergoing brain surgery is simply amazing. Several surgeons are performing awake surgeries now. I can’t think of anything I would do if I were awake other than anxiously talk about my strong desire to be asleep.

      1. My guess, not having been awake for brain surgery, is that I would be too stressed to engage in witty banter if I were awake during any part of the surgery. Just thinking about being awake during surgery make me feel a little sick.

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