By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Surgeons in London removed a brain tumor from a woman during an unusual procedure. The patient’s love of music helped guide her surgery.

During certain kinds of brain surgery, the patient is briefly awakened — in no pain — to speak or move. This allows surgeons to make sure they’re not hurting parts of the brain that controls those functions.

(credit: King’s College Hospital)

It’s not something you usually see in an operating room as doctors performed surgery with the patient playing her violin.

“I played some scaled and different harmonies but nothing really so exciting,” patient Dagmar Turner, an orchestra violinist, said. “I was thinking about what to play — that’s really the pickle.”

Turner had a brain tumor located near an area that controls fine movement. The 53-year-old was concerned surgery would affect her music.

Neurosurgeons at King’s College Hospital woke her up at a critical part of the operation to play violin. That guided them to remove as much of the tumor as possible without damaging her ability to play.

“The fine control of the left hand, for example, of somebody who’s playing the violin, the length of the string, the pressure of the string, all those fast movements, moving between one string to the other, so that was what was unusual for us,” said Dr. Keyoumars Ashkan, consultant neurosurgeon at King’s College Hospital.

The procedure was a success. Doctors removed almost all of the tumor while maintaining full function of Turner’s left hand.

“This is my life, this is what I do in my spare time and I enjoy it an awful lot,” Turner said.

Turner says it means everything to her to be able to continue her passion and keep making music.

This kind of awake surgery is performed here in Philadelphia routinely. Before the operation, there is sophisticated imaging that creates a high-tech map of the brain that also helps guides the surgery.

Stephanie Stahl