Fox59 gets exclusive look as man undergoes rare awake brain surgery

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The IU Health Neuroscience Center at Methodist Hospital performed the first awake brain surgery in Indiana a few years ago, and today, the specialized team behind the center is responsible for about 50 cases a year.

The expectation is that that the number will grow to include more Hoosier families. Only Fox59 cameras were invited inside the operating room to get a closer look at the life-altering procedure.

The patient, Ryan Brown, 30, welcomed the access, saying he wants to help other people who have gotten a similar diagnosis. He suffered a seizure in 2008, and a former doctor told him the discovered brain tumor was inoperable.

“I’m 30 years old, and I look at life a little bit different,” said Ryan Brown, a few days before his surgery.

“We’ve been together since we were 15 so he’s my family, and my boys,” said Hilda Brown, Ryan’s wife. She said she watched the awake brain surgeries online and studied for months in order to prepare for Tuesday.

The couple also met with a Fort Wayne farmer who underwent the first awake brain surgery in Indiana. They said they plan to visit when Brown is feeling better.

“By using these innovative techniques, these refined techniques, we’re going to give him a better life for a longer period of time,” said Dr. Aaron Cohen-Gadol, a neurosurgeon with the IU Health Neuroscience Center at Methodist Hospital, who performed the first awake brain surgery in the state.

The patient is heavily sedated but very capable of talking and moving his body throughout the surgery. They are specifically asked questions to make sure they are feeling comfortable and can feel when the neurosurgeons are touching parts of the brain that control motor function, vision and speech.

Brown’s tumor sat beside an area of his brain that controlled his left hand, arm and leg. Removing too much of the brain could have left him paralyzed.

“You need a very experienced team, an anesthesiologist, neurophysiologist, and surgical assistants to make sure every detail is followed very carefully, and therefore, we’re the only place in Indiana performing this operation,” said Cohen-Gadol.

After several hours in surgery, Brown’s family would learn doctors removed 90 percent of the tumor without issue.

First on Brown’s ‘to-do list’ is to play baseball with his sons.

“Throw a baseball with them. I would be very happy if I could do that,” Brown said.

Patients often spend a few days in the hospital before they can return home. The expectation is that Brown will be able to resume some of his normal activities in a month or more.