The Neurophilosopher has found an amazing video of a neurosurgical procedure to remove one hemisphere of the brain in a child – a treatment for otherwise untreatable epilepsy.
The procedure is known as a hemispherectomy and remarkably, not only can children survive this operation, but in some cases, can graduate high school and university when they are older.
This is a testament to the brain’s ability to grow and adapt during childhood – something often called ‘plasticity’ in the scientific literature.
There’s some more information and links about this remarkable operation in a previous post on Mind Hacks.
The surgical case in the video is from Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center and involves a 6 year-old girl who suffered brain damage before she was born.
In her case, a problem with the middle cerebral artery meant that part of the brain didn’t get a proper blood supply. This caused one hemisphere to develop abnormally (see the brain scan on the right).
Damaged or malformed brain tissue can lead to epilepsy in both children and adults, and this is exactly what happened in this case.
If seizures can’t be controlled by anti-epileptic medication one option is to surgically remove or isolate the source of the seizures in the brain.
Frequent seizures can lead to problems with day-to-day living, cognitive impairment, further brain damage and increase the chances of sudden unexpected death, which is a rare but tragic.
Therefore, surgery is often a life-saving procedure at best, or at the least, can make the patient a great deal safer.
Notably, before the surgery, the girl in the video wears a helmet. These are often given to children who have frequent seizures to prevent head injury when they fall.
The video explains some of the background to the case, and the surgeons narrate and explain the procedure as they go.
Link to Neurophilosopher’s page with video.