First Day In Neurosurgery! - Part one: Drilling the hole

I started my Student Selected Component (SSC) block in neurosurgery. It’s my first day and the surgeon I’m under said all he wants me to achieve by the end of this, is for me to be able to drill a hole into somebody’s head…


I scrubbed in to my first neurosurgery. I should probably be excited, like any normal person. Or even slightly scared. I didn’t really feel anything. The patient was asleep in front of me. I could still see his face. I had no idea why this patient was being operated on, not that it mattered. I’d find out once we got inside.


I watched the surgeon drill into the skull – the first ever hole I’ve seen drilled into somebody. It was quite a moment. This person now had a hole in his skull. This bony structure that has been with him his entire life was just turned to nothing. Two holes were needed before the area of the skull could be removed…


Naturally, I asked if I could drill the second.


As I held the drill in my head, I began to pray that I didn’t kill the patient. I wondered if I had just gone too far – there’s a fine line between being confident and being stupid. Perhaps I was an idiot for having a drill in my hand.


The drills work by pressing a ‘pedal’ with your foot, which spins the drill. I partially engaged the pedal to get a nice little spin on it and placed the drill onto the skull. I was surprised by how the drill just slipped on the skull – I just got moved an entire 4cm away from where I was meant to drill the hole. I repositioned, engaged the drill more, placed the drill a few mm above the surface of the skull and pushed hard.


I had entered the skull.


I saw tiny specks of skull flying around as if I was drilling wood. I carried on keeping a steady push through the skull. The surgeon was on my left, and though he was wearing a face-mask, his eyes told the story. He was proud of me. I felt good. My first day ever day in neurosurgery and I’m already drilling through somebody’s skull!


The drill suddenly stopped.


I didn’t know why it stopped spinning. Did it get stuck in the skull? Was I not pushing it through fast enough? I was about to push on it harder, but the surgeon told me to pull it out. Damn… I hoped I didn’t disappoint him.


Upon pulling the drill out, ‘Well done. You drilled your first hole into a patient’s head!’ I looked at the skull, and to my great surprise, there indeed was a hole. I could see the brain right through it!


Thanks god I didn’t push harder!




Written by: Jamil Shah Foridi


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