The neuroscience team at Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital has performed the first awake craniotomy in Montgomery County to remove a metastatic brain tumor. 

Patient Susan Murray recalls being initially uncertain about the thought of having brain surgery while awake. Her hesitation quickly faded because of confidence in her surgeon, Dr. Sabih T. Effendi, dual-trained cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgeon at Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital. “I received reassurance that this was the best approach given the location of my brain tumor,” said Murray. “He answered all my questions and I truly know my surgeon is the best out there.” 

Brain tumors are often located in regions of the brain that control specific functions, such as movement or speech. During an awake craniotomy, a neurosurgeon uses sophisticated mapping technology to physically map out parts of the brain that control speech and motor functions prior to tumor removal. 

Keeping the patient awake during surgery allows the medical team to continuously monitor and protect these critical brain functions, while removing as much of the tumor as possible. This is accomplished through an active partnership between surgeon and patient— the patient is responding to questions and performing simple tasks such as counting from one to 10 while the surgeon is simultaneously removing tumor.

“This was a patient with a tumor located next to and in the language area— causing speech issues—so she needed surgery to remove this metastatic lesion that had spread to the brain,” said Dr.  Effendi. “By removing tumor while the patient is awake we can map out and identify speech areas of the brain and avoid those areas while removing tumor to prevent neurologic problems from tumor resection.”

Murray doesn’t remember being awake during her surgery to identify flash cards or having a conversation about her family, but she is eternally thankful to the surgical team at Houston Methodist The Woodlands. “I am so grateful to God,” said Murray. “Dr. Effendi is awesome and I praise him— he is the best out there and I am thankful to be alive.” 

“The surgery greatly helped improve quality of life for Ms. Murray because we were able to remove the majority of her tumor and she is speaking better now than before surgery,” the surgeon said. “I grew up in The Woodlands, and I’m very excited and grateful to give back to my community by bringing complex neurosurgery procedures like this to the area, making a difference in people’s lives.” 

For more information about Houston Methodist The Woodlands neuroscience program, visit or call 936.286.3582.