Teen sings during brain surgery

Teen sings during brain surgery (Seattle Children's Hospital/CBS Newspath)

SEATTLE (CBS Newspath) - 19-year-old Kira Iaconetti from Lynden, Washington is an avid singer, dancer, and performer. About four years ago she began noticing something weird that would happen when she was singing or listening to music.

“It was like a light switch turned off in my brain,” said Iaconetti, a talented self-taught musician who has been performing in musicals since she was 6 years old. “Suddenly, I was tone deaf, I couldn’t process the words in time with the music and I couldn’t sing.”

After seeking treatment, a neurologist determined Kira had music-triggered epilepsy. The cause of her seizures remained unknown until a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan at Seattle Children’s revealed a marble-sized mass in the right temporal lobe of her brain.

Dr. Jason Hauptman, a neurosurgeon in Seattle Children’s Neurosciences Center, says the calcified tumor was pressing up against her auditory cortex, which likely explained the occurrence of the seizures during her performances.

Iaconetti would need brain surgery to remove the tumor. Because of the tumor’s location, the Seattle Children’s epilepsy surgery team took an innovative, personalized approach to planning her surgery.

Hauptman decided to have Iaconetti wake up during surgery and complete musical tasks while mapping the areas of her brain that were used. When removing the tumor, Hauptman would use the perimeters defined during the mapping to steer clear of the areas of Iaconetti’s brain that gave her the ability to produce and interpret music.

As Hauptman started to remove the tumor, Iaconetti gradually warmed up into the main chorus of the selected song, Weezer’s 2001 hit, “Island in the Sun,” while still on the operating room table.

With the tumor removed, Iaconetti was put back to sleep for the final parts of the surgery. Just 48 hours later, Iaconetti was playing guitar and singing with Knott from her inpatient hospital bed.

The pathology results identify the mass removed by Hauptman as a low-grade glioma. According to Hauptman it’s unlikely that Iaconetti will need any further treatment for the tumor. Her prognosis is good.

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