Dagmar Turner

Passionate musician plays violin in the middle of brain surgery

Woken in the middle of the op

Incredible footage released by King’s College Hospital in London has shown the extraordinary moment a woman played the violin while undergoing brain surgery.

Violinist Dagmar Turner, 53, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2013 after suffering a seizure in the middle of a symphony.

Following radiotherapy treatment to keep it at bay, it was found to have grown and become more aggressive, so the musician opted for surgery to have it removed.

Dagmar Turner
She was worried about losing the ability to play (Credit: King’s College Hospital / YouTube)

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The growth was located in the right frontal lobe of Dagmar’s brain, close to an area that controls fine movement in her left hand.

As a keen violinist who plays in the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra – and aware that her consultant neurosurgeon, Prof. Keyoumars Ashkan, was likewise passionate about music – she expressed her concern that an operation might affect her ability to play.

Dagmar Turner
Dagmar is a member of the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra (Credit: ITV News)

So Prof. Ashkan and the hospital’s neurosurgical team devised a plan with Dagmar that would see her woken mid-procedure and allowed to play her violin, which would help the surgeons avoid damaging crucial areas of the brain that control Dagmar’s hand movements.

During the operation, the surgeons created an opening in her skull, a procedure known as a craniotomy, and she played music while having her tumour removed.

The thought of losing my ability to play was heartbreaking.

Prof. Ashkan said afterwards: “King’s is one of the largest brain tumour centres in the UK. We perform around 400 resections (tumour removals) each year, which often involves rousing patients to carry out language tests, but this was the first time I’ve had a patient play an instrument.

“We knew how important the violin is to Dagmar so it was vital that we preserved function in the delicate areas of her brain that allowed her to play. We managed to remove over 90 per cent of the tumour, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand.”

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Dagmar said: “The violin is my passion; I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old. The thought of losing my ability to play was heartbreaking but, being a musician himself, Prof. Ashkan understood my concerns. He and the team at King’s went out of their way to plan the operation – from mapping my brain to planning the position I needed to be in to play. Thanks to them I’m hoping to be back with my orchestra very soon.”

Just three days after the brain tumour op, Dagmar was well enough to return home to her husband and son.

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