Health

This Woman Live-Streamed Her Awake Brain Surgery

Jenna Schardt and her doctors broadcast the surgery online to help people better understand brain malformations.

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A woman undergoing brain surgery while awake allowed doctors to live-stream her procedure as they narrated throughout the operation. 
 
Occupational therapy student Jenna Schardt, 25, wanted to broadcast the surgery to help educate people on brain injuries and malformations.

Schardt initially found out she needed the procedure after experiencing difficulty speaking. Doctors told her she had a mass of blood vessels on the part of her brain that affects speech.
 
Take remove the mass, Schardt underwent surgery at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. But removing the mass was a delicate procedure that could affect other parts of the brain if done incorrectly, so it required her to stay awake throughout.

“Jenna’s lesion is located around some pretty critical areas,” Methodist Dallas Medical Center Neurosurgeon Randall Graham, MD, explained. “What’s nice is nowadays we can have people awake during surgery and we can find and test the surface of the brain to figure out exactly where those functions come from so we know where to avoid.”
 
In order to not compromise her ability to speak, surgeons had to stimulate parts of Schardt’s brain and map out which parts to avoid. To help them with that, she had to be awake during the procure to identify different pictures and words.
 
As an occupational therapy student pursuing her Master’s degree, Schardt works with people who have had a stroke and brain injuries. So she wanted to broadcast her own surgery to help people better understand brain malformations and the procedures that are available to fix them.
 
“If this can be some sort of learning opportunity for somebody else, I mean, I think something good’s going to come out of this. I don’t know what yet,” she said. “But that’s how I feel about it. I have peace about it.”
 
The surgery was live-streamed on Methodist Dallas’ Facebook page. After it was over, the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery Dr. Nimesh Patel said it was “close to perfection.” 

Doctors also said she would not feel any pain while they stimulated her brain.

“The brain surface doesn’t have any pain receptors,” Graham explained during the live-stream. “The part with all the pain receptors is the scalp, skull and some of the soft tissues surrounding the brain.”