Woman plays flute during brain surgery

  • Anna Henry was wide awake when doctors performed brain surgery on her on Tuesday
  • Henry suffers from a hereditary problem with tremor

A woman from Texas played the flute while she was lying on the operation table during a major brain stimulation surgery.

Anna Marie Whitlock Henry, a 63-year-old professional flute player from Lubbock, was undergoing a deep brain stimulation procedure to reduce tremors in her head and hands.

Anna said the condition is hereditary in her family and she had been dealing with tremors since childhood, but it started impacting her professional career significantly several years ago.

“I can fight it, but I’m tired of doing it. And it is getting worse. I know it’s a matter of either admitting I can’t do it anymore, or doing this [surgery] so that I can,” Anna reportedly said.

During deep brain stimulation procedures, doctors implant electrodes in the brain to try and control tremors. The patient must be awake during operation, so doctors can see the effect of the procedure. Anna was asked to do a number of tasks which included testing her ability to play the flute without tremors.

“It is brain surgery, but it’s a way we can really improve a patient’s life, quality of life, where otherwise they’re going to be on medications that may have a modest effect on improving their tremor,” said Dr. Albert Fenoy, neurosurgeon with the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann and UTHealth.

Deep brain stimulation is primarily used to reduce symptoms for patients with Parkinson’s Disease and tremors. However, the procedure is currently being tested to help people battling depression.

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