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Machine offers 'instant brain exposure' in OR

August 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Teaming up surgery with technology in the operating room is helping doctors do a better job. Think of it as a "Polaroid" of the inside of your brain. This instant exposure can save lives.

In March, doctors removed a tumor from 43-year-old April Gillies' brain for the third time.

"It's hard to keep your faith and not wonder why you have to keep going through it," Gillies said.

The tumor was cancerous and growing near an area that controlled fine motor skills. But this time, doctors at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit have a new tool by their sides -- an intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging machine (IMRI).

"We've had surgery and MRI for decades. Now, we're putting them together," said Dr. Steven N. Kalkanis, co-director of the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center at Henry Ford Hospital.

The imaging system is in a special suite connected to the operating room. Patients can be wheeled into the scanner, giving surgeons a real-time snapshot of the brain. Traditionally, surgeons rely on images taken hours before.

With this surgical set-up, doctors also use the IMRI right after the operation. In Gillies' case, the scanner picked up a tiny area of suspicious cells that were hidden during surgery. Dr. Kalkanis went back in and removed them, increasing her chances of kicking the cancer for good.

Dr. Kalkanis says the IMRI is being used as part of the evaluation of many of henry ford hospital's ongoing brain tumor clinical trials.

It's helping doctors understand which treatments are the most effective for a particular patient suffering from the disease.

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