LOS ANGELES -- It was an uncomplicated brain surgery the hospital had performed hundreds of times before (499 times, to be exact). But to celebrate Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center's 500th deep brain stimulation operation Thursday, surgeons performed the world's first live-Vined brain surgery.
The operation, which lead neurologist Dr. Nader Pouratian described as "textbook" brain pacemaker implant surgery, was documented with Vine, a six-second video medium, and with Instagram photos on the hospital's Twitter account (@UCLAhealth) in real time on patient Brad Carter, an actor diagnosed with the progressive neurological disorder essential tremor in 2006.
"Not everyone gets to experience a surgery, and more specifically an awake brain surgery," Pouratian said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. "I thought it was a great opportunity to share with the world."
Deep brian stimulation is a therapy for people with Parkinson's disease, estimated to affect more than 1 million Americans, or essential tremors, which affects about 10 million Americans. It involves inserting a pacemaker that emits electronic impulses to affected areas of the brain, lessening tremor symptoms. At UCLA, the patient is conscious during the surgery and is asked to perform tests so that doctors can ensure the pacemaker is properly placed.
Carter's disease made his hands shake and his eyes twitch, affecting his ability to play the guitar. He had asked that he be allowed to strum his guitar during the operation to see if the pacemaker improved his playing ability.
Lo and behold, Vine videos from the surgery show Carter's guitar skills get stronger as physicians located the best place to leave the pacemaker. Vine videos also show Carter perform more routine tests, like extending his arms forward.
Scroll through the most intense Vines from Thursday's surgery and check out UCLAhealth on Twitter to see posts from the whole surgery from start to finish. Story continues below.
Meet Brad Carter. He'll be undergoing surgery to implant a pacemaker in his brain to mitigate the symptoms of his essential tremors diagnosis.
Carter gets prepped for surgery.
Doctors push Carter into the CT scanner.
Surgeons cut through skin and bone. Don't worry, there are no graphic sights -- just scary drill sounds.
Carter is awake and greets his mom from the operating table.
Carter plays his guitar before the clinical specialist adjusts the pacemaker.
Carter demonstrates his arm tremors.
Carter's showing major improvement in arm tremors.
Carter's guitar playing is instantly smoother. Success!
Carter's surgery was completed in about five hours. He'll be discharged from the hospital Friday morning.
Pouratian, director of the Neurosurgical Movement Disorders Program at UCLA, noted that his role at the teaching hospital often requires him to explain the surgery to observing students and visitors. And for awake surgeries, he added, he's often explaining the surgery to the patient.
That's why it wasn't much of a stretch to add tweeting to the job. As Pouratian worked on Carter's brain, he instructed a member of UCLA's marketing team on the tweets.
For Pouratian, the surgery was all in a day's work, although he acknowledged that Twitter significantly broadened the size of his classroom. Plus, he added, the Vines were a good way to show his children what he does while he's away from home.
"My 4-year-old would probably want to see it," said Pouratian, laughing. "The last time I brought her to work she watched 'Elmo' and she thinks that's what I do."
UCLA isn't the first hospital to live-tweet surgery, noted the Los Angeles Times. Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital in Houston live-tweeted open heart surgery in February 2012, while Spire Bushey hospital in England posted Vine videos of a hip surgery earlier this year.
Indiana University Health (@IU_Health) also live-tweeted a kidney transplant surgery from a live donor last June.
CORRECTION: This article originally stated that Indiana University Health plans to live tweet a kidney transplant surgery in June, but the hospital already did so last June.