Patient Plays His Saxophone Throughout 9-Hour Brain Surgery To Remove Tumor

October 15, 2022

A patient at Paideia International Hospital in Rome, Italy, underwent a 9-hour brain operation while playing the saxophone.

man plays sax during brain surgery
Paideia International Hospital

The team of surgeons, led by Dr. Christian Brogna, international expert in complex tumor surgery and "awake surgery", completely removed the brain tumor without compromising the patient's neurological functions.

The doctor said his 35-year-old patient, who has been identified only as C.Z., played the theme song from the 1970 movie "Love Story," and the Italian national anthem, at various times throughout the surgery.

C.Z. had told the medical team that preserving his musical ability was essential to him. It was also very useful to the surgeon, because his patient playing the sax during surgery allowed Brogna to map different functions of the brain as he operated.


"To play an instrument means that you can understand music, which is a high cognitive function. It means you can interact with the instrument, you can coordinate both hands, you can exercise memory, you can count — because music is mathematics — you can test vision because the patient has to see the instrument, and you can test the way the patient interacts with the rest of the team," he said.

The procedure was on Monday and C.Z. was discharged early Thursday morning. Brogna said he was proud that his patient had been able to go back to his normal life, and proud that with each operation, knowledge of this branch of medicine is advancing.

"Every awake surgery not only allows to obtain the maximum result in terms of removal of the pathology, but it is a real discovery. Each time it offers us a window into the functioning of this fascinating, but still in many ways mysterious organ, which is the brain," he said.

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