Minnesota, meet the T-suite.
That’s because the four-room T-suite is home to a powerful mobile magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. The scanner can travel to each of the three operating theaters in the suite, where neurosurgeons and other experts will use it to view real-time images of the brain during surgery.
This capability will revolutionize outcomes for the people under our care, according to M Health Fairview Neurosurgeon Clark C. Chen, MD, PhD. Chen also serves as the chair and head of the Neurosurgery Department at University of Minnesota Medical School.
“To see the real-time results of our surgery is a dream come true for surgeons and a giant leap forward in our ability to personalize surgery to meet the specific needs of the person,” Chen said.
The ability to conduct an MRI scan during surgery allows neurosurgeons to check their work immediately. For example, neurosurgeons
removing a brain tumor can now use real-time imaging to see whether they have successfully eliminated all the cancerous tissue. If they spot additional tumor tissue left in the brain, they can take it out during the same procedure without the need for a second surgery.
Though similar MRI surgical suites exist, the T-suite at University of Minnesota Medical Center is the first in the world that has three separate operating rooms. It is also equipped with a 3-Tesla MRI scanner, which is the most sophisticated intraoperative imaging device currently available for patients.
“There's never been an OR where we co-located three distinct and separate operating rooms next to the state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging machine,” Chen said.
Real-time imaging during surgery can also improve outcomes for people with other neurological conditions, including stroke and Parkinson’s disease, according to Chen. Real-time imaging can help physicians understand how neural connectivity changes in the brain as a surgery progresses, allowing stroke or Parkinson’s disease specialists a better opportunity to tailor surgical treatment to the patient, he added.
The T-suite’s flexible design also allows each of the three operating rooms to be customized for different procedures. One of the T-suite’s rooms can be customized for endovascular (catheter-based) procedures like embolization and stroke treatment. Another can be used for laser ablation, which cannot be performed in a traditional operating room setting. This means a person undergoing a complex, multi-stage surgery can move from room to room for each stage of the procedure. Some patients will only need to undergo anesthesia once, rather than multiple times, and can have each stage of their treatment completed on the same day.
The T-suite technology will also help advance leading-edge medical research conducted by experts at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, according to M Health Fairview Radiologist Charles Dietz, MD. Dietz is also the chair of the Radiology Department at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
“We have world-class MRI research expertise at the University of Minnesota,” Dietz said. “The center’s physicists and researchers will partner with surgeons to develop new innovations and procedures that will greatly benefit surgical patients.”
Radiologist Alexander McKinney, MD, agrees. The T-suite will help bridge the gap between research and clinical care, he said. For example, physician researchers will be able to identify and follow individual nerve fiber tracks in the brain, allowing them to better understand how brain tumors, stroke lesions, or other issues affect the brain—all in real time during surgery. The surgical suite is also equipped with an observation deck, allowing experts from all over the world to visit, view and study the surgical advancements being performed at University of Minnesota Medical Center.
“When I saw [the T-suite], I was very excited because we're finally bringing to our patients what we've theoretically wanted to do for years—bringing cutting-edge research into the clinical realm,” said McKinney, who is also the Vice-Chair of Research and Informatics and Neuroradiology Director in the Radiology Department at the U of M Medical School.
The potential to move the field forward is also exciting for Chen.“This is a three-year work in progress in negotiation, in design,” Chen said. “It took a whole team of people to make this dream come true. Seeing this come true is like seeing the sunrise on top of the Himalayas. It’s that extraordinary feeling that you can't quite explain.”