Methodist University Hospital Neuroscience Institute to Webcast an Awake Craniotomy

Published On 07/11/2011

Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, will offer public access to an awake craniotomy when it hosts the latest in an ongoing series of surgical webcasts on Tuesday, April 21, 2009. The webcast, which can be viewed at starting at 4 p.m. (CST), will feature nationally recognized neurosurgeons Allen K. Sills, Jr., M.D. and L. Madison Michael II, M.D., in concert with the Mid-South’s only team qualified to execute this highly complex brain surgery. 

Questions about the procedure will be answered live via email during the webcast from 4 p.m. - 5 p.m. (CST). After this time, the hour-long webcast will be archived and available to view by visiting and clicking “Surgical Webcasts.” (For a preview of the webcast, please visit

About the Procedure

An awake craniotomy is necessary when a tumor is present in a portion of the brain that controls a critical function such as speech, sensation or motor movement. (In June 2008, Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy underwent a highly publicized awake craniotomy at Duke University Hospital.) The procedure lasts approximately four hours. The patient is under full sedation until the neurosurgeon reaches the brain. At this time, the patient is brought to consciousness to communicate with the neurosurgeon to ensure no critical structures controlling speech or movement are affected. The patient is asked to speak and to move his or her fingers so the neurosurgeon knows which areas of the brain not to disturb. While the tumor is being removed, patients do not feel any pain because the brain is not a pain-sensitive structure. An awake craniotomy requires less anesthesia; therefore patients recover much more quickly than from other types of brain surgery. In fact, patients typically return home in three to four days. In this particular webcast, the patient, a 42-year-old mother, was able to talk to her family immediately after the procedure while she was still in the operating room.

Participating Physicians

Dr. Allen K. Sills, Jr., M.D.
Neuroscience Institute Medical Director
A nationally recognized neurosurgeon with the Semmes-Murphey Neurologic & Spine Institute in Memphis, Dr. Sills is an Associate Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. Dr. Sills has authored more than 60 publications regarding his research and has participated in numerous clinical trials. He obtained his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University, where he completed a fellowship in brain tumors. Dr. Sills is certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, specializing in brain tumors, cerebrovascular disease, Gamma Knife radiosurgery and sports neurosurgery.

L. Madison Michael, M.D.
Neuroscience Institute Medical Director of Research, Education and Skull Base Surgery
A surgeon with the Semmes-Murphey Neurologic & Spine Institute in Memphis, Dr. Michael is an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Tennessee Medical School, followed by a twelve-month international fellowship in both skull base neurosurgery and complex spine surgery in Bristol, England. Dr. Michael’s special areas of interest are skull base neurosurgery, pituitary surgery, acoustic neuromas, brain tumor surgery and complex spine surgery.

Wayne Hamm, CRNA

Wayne Hamm, a CRNA with the Medical Anesthesia Group, has more than 30 years of experience in neurosurgical and neuro-otological procedures. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a master’s degree in Nursing with an emphasis in Medical-Surgical Nursing. He received his diploma in
Anesthesiology from Duke University Medical Center, where he was awarded the Sarah Dent Award for Outstanding Achievement.

About Methodist University Hospital

Methodist University Hospital is the only hospital in the Mid-South region with the training, skill and coordination among neurosurgeons, anesthesiology team, O.R. staff and a dedicated Neurological Intensive Care Unit to perform leading-edge procedures for neurological conditions, such as an awake craniotomy for brain tumor removal and deep hypothermic circulatory arrest craniotomy for aneurysm treatment. The hospital is also home to the Memphis Regional Gamma Knife Center. A revolution in brain surgery, Gamma Knife treatments have given new hope to patients with brain tumors that were once thought to be inoperable. The Methodist adult hospitals comprise the highest-volume, most comprehensive neurological program in the Mid-South, and act as a tertiary referral center for West Tennessee, Eastern Arkansas, Southern Missouri and North Mississippi.

Methodist University Hospital Neuroscience Institute (MUH-NI) is the principal teaching site for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s neurological/surgical residency program, which in conjunction with the Semmes-Murphey Neurologic & Spine Institute, is one of the most highly regarded medical residency programs in the nation. The MUH-NI is also the only site for adult neurological clinical research and development, and features the area’s largest and most experienced neuro-intensive care unit. The physicians are among the most highly trained and respected in the world and are available in-house 24/7.

About MUH-NI Virtual Brain Tumor Board

In 2008, The MUH-NI Virtual Brain Tumor Board was born from the growing demand for quality clinical information online, especially for clinicians practicing in rural communities far from academic medical centers. Because VBTB offers the opportunity for physicians to submit cases for review and collaborate in our physician-only discussion forums, the on-demand access needs of many regional and international clinicians are finally being met. Specifically, the VBTB website offer participants the opportunity to:

• Submit challenging cases for review (physicians only)
• Select and view discussions of challenging neuro-oncology cases from the large video bank
• Subscribe to receive new neuro-oncology videos each week, via email
• Discuss current cases on physician-only forums
• Access information on the latest clinical trials
• Locate valuable neuro-oncology resources for patients and families

In March 2009, the MUH-NI made an innovative breakthrough in medicine by launching the Virtual Brain Tumor Board (VBTB) website (, the first program of its kind to fully utilize internet-based technology and social networking tactics to expedite physician collaboration in the field of neuro-oncology. The VBTB website expands on the universal tumor board concept by providing an online platform where a multi-disciplinary team of experts, including neurosurgeons, pathologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and neuro-interventional radiologists, reviews challenging clinical cases and collaborates together to create the best treatment plan for each patient. The website includes a regularly updated section that features video footage of complex surgeries, which are serving as a unique resource for physicians across the country and world.

"Our goal is to give physicians in other geographic areas the chance to receive the expertise and experience from our physicians regarding brain tumor treatment and care for their patients," says Allen K. Sills, M.D., neurosurgeon and moderator of VBTB. “To date, the VBTB and the new website have been successful in providing an interactive, collaborative platform to physicians across the globe. We've exchanged information with more than 800 registered participants from more than 80 countries, and nearly every state in the U.S. Our multi-disciplinary team has reviewed cases for patients in Australia, India, and Japan.”