Brain doctors, doing their thing
December 4, 2011 6:20 AM   Subscribe

posted by Scientist at 7:26 AM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not Safe For Hypochondriacs
posted by Blasdelb at 7:41 AM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this.
posted by clockbound at 7:54 AM on December 4, 2011

and a vivid video of the removal of one.

Huh, apparently Vivid has moved in a really extreme direction since the last time I saw any of their movies. But hey, whatever turns you on.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:06 AM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


That surprised me the first time I saw it, too. But it makes sense: the brain gets ~20% of the cardiac output of the heart, so with every heartbeat the brain gets a huge pulse of blood.
posted by bradleyvoytek at 8:51 AM on December 4, 2011


Yeah, wasn't really prepared for that. *shudder*
posted by valkyryn at 9:00 AM on December 4, 2011

"Vivid video" in connection with brain surgery conjured up a most peculiar mental image for me. Heh.
posted by Gator at 9:12 AM on December 4, 2011

What has happened to North Hollywood-based adult entertainment megaproducers Vivid ...

posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:17 AM on December 4, 2011

My father went on a health kick in his early 40s. Started running and got pretty addicted to it. His doctor was astounded at his last physical at 49, saying my father had the heart of an 18-year old.

Then, one day he was out running, lost his balance, and fell. At the hospital, they checked him over and found a pea-sized brain tumor over his left ear. He did the rounds; went to the Mayo clinic and saw all the "best" specialists. But, even with the best care, in 8 months he went from 6-7, 250 lbs. to less than 150 lbs. 8 months from superhealthy specimen to dead.

I spent a good bit of time with the neurosurgeon prior to my dad's surgery. I attended his cat scans - it was 1980 and cat scans were cutting edge. It was like magic and the doctors were still amazed at the information they could get. But it really struck me when the neurosurgeon - one of the best available, by all accounts - said to me "We do everything we know how to do; the problem is we know so little about the brain."

He went on to explain the piss-poor batting average in his profession and said he kept going only because every patient offered an opportunity to learn something to help the next patient.
Even now - more than 30 years later - the doctor in this video says the 10 year survivor rate is in the low single digits. Wow.

God bless neurosurgeons. I'd be a total mess if my success rate was so dismal. Slow and steady wins the race, I guess.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:34 AM on December 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

Yeah, Benny Andajetz, my Dad and all his siblings eventually ended up with brain tumors. It's a sucky thing since it can hide until some odd symptom shows up.

Curiously, the oncologists said there was no link in all the cases even though there was 20 yrs age span, different living conditions and different occupations. There's still so much unknown about how our bodies work.
posted by mightshould at 10:32 AM on December 4, 2011

Three weeks ago, one of my co-workers, who had been fine up to then, lost the ability to talk coherently, all of a sudden. The official diagnosis upon day one of this was "word salad" (I am not making this up.) He could understand and form thoughts but he could not get the thoughts out. He regained the ability to speak within several days.

Progressive scans showed a shadow, a mass, a tumor, and finally the biopsy showed a malignant tumor (with tentacles reaching into other parts of the brain). Each update has gotten increasingly grim, and the final escalation of bad news went from a 2-year-survival diagnosis, to telling him that he needs to start chemo and radiation Monday (tomorrow) or face a very short period of still being alive.

This has been devastating to follow, and while he has showed up at work to brief his assistant in parts of this job, and to pass out Christmas cards (which is does every year), it is incredibly sad and scary.
posted by Danf at 11:11 AM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Way back in the eighties, when I was still a child, my father began regularly getting debilitating headaches. For whatever reason, eating a candy bar would usually cause the headache to subside, and he kept it in check this way for a few months before finally giving in and going to the doctor's office. It turned out that he had a tumor roughly the size of an egg in his brain.

The subsequent operation took a little over 20% of his brain. He lost his sense of taste/smell and his ability to regulate his emotions. His surgeon explained to him that they'd removed everything that they could find, but that the expected it to return and kill him within a year. The radiologist, when told this, said that he thought that the doctor's diagnosis was pessimistic; his diagnosis was that my dad could easily last as long as a year and a half.

My father is still alive today, 25 years later. His senses eventually returned to their normal levels of perception, he regained his emotional equilibrium. There have been no signs of the cancer returning (we suspect that it is because he no longer works in the same field of work, which exposed him to some very strong radiation and electromagnetic fields on a regular basis).

Seriously, fuck cancer. I was a kid when this happened; it never occurred to me that a doctor might be wrong about something. I spent that year thinking that every day was one day closer to the deadline when we'd find my father dead. Every day for years after the deadline passed I expected him to just drop, because he was past due. My bedroom was directly adjacent to the family bathroom; I woke up on a daily basis to the sound of what I thought was my father dying (if you've never heard someone reacting badly to chemotherapy, take my word that it's about the most tortured sound in the world).

I'm so, so grateful to the doctors that saved my father's life. Also, he has some completely badass scars from it.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:31 AM on December 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

I just finished a two-month stint on critical care neuro and (mostly) stroke. I've come away seriously amazed and appalled at the size that some tumours can reach, and the slow, insidious way they can progressively debilitate a person for months (or years) before they finally come to the hospital. It's to do with the timing - you can look at a CT or MR of a person with something chronic and the damn thing can be taking up nearly half a hemisphere and the person is reporting something like "Well, I get dizzy a lot, and maybe sometimes I mix up some words". Then you can have others with a sudden, acute small 1-2 cc bleed, and they are are crashing towards critical. Psychiatrists are mainly trained to deal with the brain's emergent phenomena (and the biological substrate can often be de-emphasised for the sake of rapid analysis and treatment), but when you are dealing with the brain's raw biology, and its simple dynamics of fluids and compression and ensuring sufficient drainage of this spongy organ trapped within a small, bony space behind a thin autoregulating semi-permeable tissue layer susceptible to all kinds of damage, it becomes a whole different, visceral way of taking care of a person. It's also amazing and humbling to watch them grow and shrink depending on which kinds of IV fluids you run into a person, and then getting the timing right to schedule the neurosurgeons to start drilling or cutting or clipping or coiling. So yeah, brains, they're not just what's for zombie dinner.
posted by meehawl at 1:06 PM on December 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Let's think back to Mefi's Own mathowie's adventures in brain tumors.
posted by Nomyte at 1:38 PM on December 4, 2011

Argh. I don't think I can watch these videos. I have brain cancer, and have had a pretty good response to the radiation (surgery is impossible because of its location) but I am still struggling with the symptoms (I developed epilepsy, primarily). I am lucky though-- I am working full time and living a pretty good life with my family, including my almost 21-month daughter.

But it's really good that people learn about this. It took about 6 months after my symptoms emerged for me to get a fixed diagnosis.
posted by miss tea at 3:06 PM on December 4, 2011

miss tea, wishing you health and a continued good response to radiation.
posted by heathergirl at 4:30 PM on December 4, 2011

Seconding heathergirl's wishes for you, miss tea.
posted by aryma at 4:40 PM on December 4, 2011

Ah, miss tea ... adding my voice to the chorus of good wishes for your progress and health.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:39 PM on December 4, 2011

Huh... How should I put this...

miss tea, I hope you kick cancer's sorry ass to curb and then keep on kicking that fucker good and hard.

Yeah, that seems about right.
(I miss my Dad so much at moments like this.)
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:02 PM on December 4, 2011

and a vivid video of the removal of one.

Watched it in full screen mode. Thank you.
posted by marvin at 7:48 PM on December 4, 2011

My late grandfather was a neuro, of Mayo clinic stock no less, and after he retired would, for over a decade, still keep up with the latest in journals and developments in the practice and so forth to the point that he could have re-entered the field if he had wished. His waning years were the waxing of cat scans and the like. He was always fascinated by the immensity of the proportionately factorial levels of information being revealed about the brain in our very lifetime.

It is simply mind boggling what we now know compared to the previous generation, and what yet how little we truly know.

He also told me enough stories of brain tumors that I can still remember the day and the place when a doctor told me he wanted me to get scanned for a possible tumor. I turned up negative but I remain with the knowledge that on any given day I could turn up the other way.

One of my greatest hopes for my life is that I will live to see a day where we learn enough to effectively fight this disease without such detrimental effects on its victims.

And good on you, miss tea.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:03 AM on December 5, 2011

Thanks all. I didn't intend to derail with my personal narrative. Sorry about that.
posted by miss tea at 4:09 AM on December 5, 2011

I've researched the topic on my own brain cancer and diet.

It really genuinely seems like a low carb, restricted calorie diet has a lot of merit. Google "ketosis cancer" and "low carb cancer". This diet appears to be effective on most cancers - I definitely recommend checking it out if you have cancer interest.

Sincere best of luck to all struggling with cancer.
posted by youandwhosearmy at 3:19 PM on December 8, 2011

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