Spectrum surgeon performs brain surgery on patient – who’s awake



Kim Bonnema was one of the first patients in West Michigan to undergo surgery to remove tumors in the brain –– while she was awake.

The surgery was performed at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital by Dr. Kost Elisevich, co-chair of the department of clinical neurosciences and chief of the neurosurgery division of the Spectrum Health Medical Group.

Bonnema, 45, of Wyoming, underwent a craniotomy this summer to remove tumors, one of which was between the motor and language areas of the frontal lobe of the brain.

Elisevich said that for safety reasons “we needed to be able to interact with Kim during the surgery in order to assess her language and motor skills as the tumor itself was removed.”

An awake craniotomy involves arousing the patient from sedation during the surgery. Bonnema, once conscious, interacted with a speech pathologist and Elisevich while electrical recording and stimulation of the brain surface was undertaken to map both language and motor areas.

“We asked Kim to move her right hand and wrist, to show a smile and close her eyes,” recalled the neurosurgeon.

A second tumor was situated in another area of the brain, the temporal lobe, and required further electrical recording in order to identify the most excitable area in the vicinity of the tumor that was actually responsible for the epilepsy from which Bonnema suffered.

Bonnema left Butterworth Hospital four days after the surgery and spent less than two weeks of rehabilitation in the Center for Acute Rehabilitation at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital before returning home. Several months after the surgery, Bonnema remains seizure free and returned to work during the summer. Her language and right side motor function is no longer threatened, and she will continue to improve as her brain readjusts, according to Elisevich.

“I suspect she will remain free of seizures arising from her temporal lobe now,” said Elisevich. “We must remain vigilant about her other tumors to see that they don’t come to interfere with her life in some fashion.”

She will continue on her antiepileptic medications for a number of months before a decision is made to withdraw them entirely.

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