On Oct. 25, the National Geographic Channel will broadcast the actual brain surgery of an actual patient on live TV. The two-hour show, appropriately called “Brain Surgery Live,” is in partnership with the magazine Mental Floss.
“Filming will take place via two handheld cameras well as several robotic cameras with inputs directly in the doctors’ surgical equipment, allowing viewers to see live images as the brain is being operated on in real time,” Kate Stanhope explained in The Hollywood Reporter, which first reported the news.
The show will give viewers a look at a deep brain stimulation surgery, which involves drilling a small hole in the skull to attach electrodes to the brain. Those electrodes are connected to a pacemaker-like device so they can release electrical impulses to targeted areas of the brain.
The surgery is used to help treat certain neurological diseases like Parkinson’s. Because it’s very important that the electrodes are placed on the exact brain areas the stimulation is designed to target, the neurosurgeon typically talks to the fully awake patient during the procedure.
While deep brain stimulation has been shown to be more effective than existing medical therapies for treating Parkinson’s, it is not without risks.
Among the most serious is that when the electrodes are being are being placed, doctors can accidentally puncture a blood vessel, causing a stroke. Other rare complications that have been observed during deep brain stimulation surgery are abnormally low blood pressure and seizures.
In a 2009 study published in JAMA, researchers looked at 121 Parkinson’s patients who had undergone the surgery. They found a total of 39 “serious adverse events related to the surgical procedure.” The most common complication was an infection, usually treated with antibiotics, but others were more severe. One patient in the study experienced a brain hemorrhage 24 hours after the surgery and died.
All of which is to say: While deep brain stimulation has been an important development for patients, and though the surgery has an “acceptably low” risk of complication, it still seems like a delicate thing to show on live TV.
Certainly, the show is also an opportunity for a wider audience to learn about brain surgery — and the brain in general. That seems to be the perspective of the team involved.
The patient who will star in this broadcast has yet to be identified.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.