The UCLA Medical Center in California became the first to film and live-tweet a brain surgery on its Twitter account. It began live-tweeting videos showing an "awake" craniotomy procedure for surgical implantation of a pacemaker at 6:24 p.m. Thursday.
The videos, live-tweeted on the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center's @UCLAhealth Twitter account, shows the surgery patient, Georgia-born Hollywood actor and musician, Brad Carter, 39, singing and playing his guitar while undergoing Deep Brain Stimulation procedure to stop his involuntary tremors.
It was the 500th time that surgeons at the hospital have performed the procedure, thus it was routine for them. They decided to live-tweet the surgery on Twitter's Vine video service to celebrate the occasion.
Carter was diagnosed of progressive neurological disorder essential tremor in 2006 after he developed hand tremors which made it difficult for him to play the guitar, UCLA Newsroom reports. The disorder also causes the eyes to twitch involuntarily.
Deep Brain Stimulation is a method used to treat Parkinson's disease estimated to affect more than 1 million Americans. The surgical procedure involves implanting pacemakers which stimulate brain cell activity and control involuntary tremors.
The procedure is also used to treat essential tremors which affect about 10 million Americans. Surgeons implant a pacemaker in a specific brain location. The pacemaker sends out tiny electrical impulses to the targeted area of the brain which help to control the tremors.
Surgeons woke Carter up during the procedure to implant the pacemaker electrodes in his brain. Having the patient awake and playing his favorite instrument allows the doctors to proceed by trial and error to locate the best position for the electrodes. The patient plays the guitar and sings along while doctors fine-tune their placement of the device to control his tremors.
The series of videos on Twitter vine, a six-second video medium, show the stages of the procedure.
Carter is shown saying at the start of the surgery: "I am excited to play the guitar... original tunes.... [this] one is called 'Drunk again.'"
UCLA Medical Center staff updated followers with Instagram photos and short Vine video clips of the surgical procedure on their Twitter account under the hashtag #UCLAORLive. Neurosurgeon Dr. Nader Pouratian, who led the team of surgeons, said he hopes it would help patients who fear the procedure to take an informed decision.
The Huffington Post reports Pouratian said in a telephone conversation: "Not everyone gets to experience a surgery, and more specifically an awake brain surgery. I thought it was a great opportunity to share with the world."
UCLA Health spokeswoman Roxanne Yamaguchi Moster, told The Huffington Post: "Many in the public don’t know about this treatment so UCLA Health System thought this would be a good way to get the word out."
The videos show Carter's guitar skills improve as surgeons fine-tune their placement of the pacemaker. He performs other tests such as holding up a cup of water and extending his arms.
Staff tweeted several stages in the surgical procedure, such as "Removing the skin and drilling through the skull for electrode placement," and "Electrode is prepared for implantation. Patient is being woken up at this time."
The surgery took about 5 hours.
While UCLA Medical Center is the first hospital to live-tweet a brain surgery, it is not the first to live-tweet a surgery, the Los Angeles Times writes. Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital in Houston live-tweeted an open heart surgery in February 2012.
The Huffington Post also reports that Spire Bushey hospital in England posted videos of a hip surgery early in 2013.
Indiana University Health (@IU_Health) also plans to live-tweet kidney transplant surgery from a live donor in June.