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An Unprecedented Television Event

Millions tuned in to watch a live brain surgery Sunday, Oct. 25 at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

Veteran newscaster Bryant Gumbel hosted this landmark television event and brought a national audience into the operating room at UH Cleveland Medical Center to witness the modern marvel of live brain surgery.

National Geographic Channel captured the drama of an awake deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery of a patient with Parkinson’s disease. This television event blended live coverage from the operating room at UH Cleveland Medical Center – a first on U.S. television – with pre-produced features that chronicled what science and medicine have historically taught us about the brain, and what is yet to be discovered. The two-hour special will be rebroadcast Sunday, Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. on the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Mundo, and globally in 171 countries and 45 languages.

In the high-tech operating room at UH Cleveland Medical Center, robotic cameras and manned, handheld cameras allowed viewers to see exactly what the neurosurgery team was seeing. The show also utilized the hospital’s cutting-edge Surgical Theater 3-D surgical simulator – developed at UH Cleveland Medical Center and the only patented and FDA-cleared platform for neurosurgical preoperative planning – which is currently available in only five hospitals in the U.S.

This live premiere featured UH neurosurgeons Jonathan Miller, MD, Director of the Functional & Restorative Neurosurgery Center and George R. and Constance P. Lincoln Master Clinician, and Jennifer Sweet, MD. The pair were joined by neurologist Benjamin Walter, MD, Director, Parkinson’s & Movement Disorders Center and the Penni and Stephen Weinberg Master Clinician.

Through this delicate, elective DBS procedure, an opening is made in the skull to access the brain, and the patient remains fully awake in order to communicate with the neurosurgeons and neurologists. This enables the neurologists to target the electrodes and test the patient to ensure they have pinpointed the affected area of the brain. DBS surgery, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat essential tremor in 1997 and Parkinson’s disease in 2002, is only performed at select medical centers with a highly specialized team and equipment.

Meet the patient, Greg Grindley, a 49-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who elected to undergo this sophisticated surgical procedure, hoping it would allow him to resume a more normal life. See how Greg is doing after his DBS procedure.