Imagine preparing to go under the knife for brain surgery — but skipping the anesthesia!

Awake brain surgery is becoming more widespread because doctors can monitor brain function while they operate and reduce risks.

Doctor Bernard Bendok is the chair of the Department of Neurologic Surgery at Mayo Clinic. He says the cutting edge procedure can be used to treat brain tumors, epileptic seizures, tremors and other movement disorders.

“The amazing thing about the human brain is we’re just at the dawn of understanding all of the functions and all of the complexities and all the connections. When we operate on a brain tumor, for example, we’re always trying to balance getting a cure — or close to a cure — with the patient’s quality of life and function, and the more we know about the function of the brain when doing the operation, the better,” Dr. Bendok said. “And sometimes having the patient awake can allow us to study the function of the brain tissue that the tumor is engaged or involved with, so that we can optimize the surgery and preserve the most function possible for the patient.”

“Here at Mayo Clinic, we’ve expanded the indications for select patients with vascular malformations, vessel diseases of the brain, things that can cause hemorrhage and stroke. And sometimes, it’d be better treated with a patient awake to really study the function around the problem that you’re trying to fix,” Dr. Bendok added.

Dr. Bendok also says that the main motivation for this type of procedure is to preserve what the patient loves about their lifestyle — and that this kind of focus is very new in healthcare, but should be considered more often.