Watch: West Africa’s first awake brain surgery has been performed in Ghana

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023
Doctors perform awake brain surgery. Image via TV3

Awake brain surgery, which has become a more commonplace procedure for doctors to remove tumors that would otherwise be inoperable, was recently performed in Ghana. Successfully conducted at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital in Ghana, this awake brain surgery is the first in the country and in West Africa, local news station TV3 reported.

It was performed on an officer of the Ghana Police Service known as Sergeant Sylvester Boakye who had difficulties in communication and challenges with personality and recording memory, the news station said. The 39-year-old was initially thought to be having a psychiatric issue and thus was taken to the psychiatric hospital for treatment. This year, he was referred to the Greater Accra Regional Hospital where doctors detected that he had a brain tumor.

And to make sure that there are no serious side effects, the surgery had to be done while the policeman was awake. “When we saw him, the necessary test was done and we detected that he had a brain tumor,” lead surgeon Prof Samuel Kaba told TV3. “The tumor is embedded in the area that helps us to be able to visualize things and position ourselves and to be able to have good memory and good thinking to reduce hallucinations,” the consultant neurosurgeon said.

“We realized that operating on him, we had to work on him awake. Because if we attempt operating on him asleep completely, we might be removing the tumor but he will come out with a deficit,” he added.

The team used local anesthesia to numb various parts of the head and the patient was kept awake during the procedure to speak and answer questions. Sergeant Boakye was made to identify objects, play the mouth organ, and even sing the national anthem during the eight-hour surgery. 

It’s scary to think of having to undergo brain surgery. And what about having the procedure done while you are still awake? Known as “awake craniotomy,” this medical procedure is helping doctors in delicate operations and saving lives. During “awake craniotomy,” if the patient suddenly stops speaking or is unable to move the limb after an area of the brain is stimulated, neurosurgeons will know they are operating around an important area and hence avoid any damage to it. 

The procedure was done for the first time at the Nairobi Hospital in Kenya in 2020 to remove a brain tumor. In December 2018, Musa Manzini, a jazz musician, was also kept awake during the operation at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban and allowed to play his guitar.

Watch Sergeant Boakye’s procedure below:

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