Spectrum Health iMRI equipment guides high-risk surgeries


Spectrum Health is one of only 40 providers of the Intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging technology, or iMRI, in the United States. Photo by Johnny Quirin

New technology recently introduced at Spectrum Health provides high-resolution guidance during surgical procedures, helping surgeons to safely and accurately remove tumors from high-risk locations in the body, such as in the brain or on the spine.

Intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging technology, or iMRI, provides quick feedback to the surgeon during the procedure, can indicate critical areas near a tumor that need to be avoided during surgery, and also helps the surgeons confirm that as much of the tumor as possible has been removed.

Spectrum Health is the only provider in West Michigan and one of only 40 in the country to have the new technology. The iMRI, located in Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, will be available to both adult and pediatric patients beginning this month.

The iMRI enables a surgeon to promptly confirm progress during surgery using the imaging equipment in a specially designed surgical suite. Patients are quickly moved from the operating side of the suite into the imaging machine to be scanned, and then returned immediately to surgery. Without an iMRI, the patient must be transferred from surgery to another location in the building for scanning, and then return at a later time for further surgery, if needed.

“As our technology gets better, so do outcomes for our patients,” said Todd Vitaz, MD, director of neurosurgical oncology and skull base surgery in the Spectrum Health Medical Group. “The ability to remove as much of the tumor as possible during the initial surgery with minimal damage to other areas of the brain is very important. Maximum tumor removal can be curative for certain tumors and makes a difference in cases where the patient needs additional treatment.”

Careful removal of tumors is essential because, in both the brain and spine, the areas surrounding the tumors may control important functions, such as language and movement.

“With iMRI, we obtain an additional type of feedback — radiographic — which enables us to minimize some risk while maximizing tumor removal,” said Vitaz.

Beyond tumor surgery, Spectrum Health anticipates using the iMRI for deep brain stimulation, a surgical treatment for people with severe Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders, and epilepsy surgery. This technology also opens the door for other advances and minimally invasive treatments, such as thermal coagulation of inoperable or recurrent brain tumors using lasers.

Spectrum Health’s iMRI machine is a Discovery MR750w, made by GE Healthcare.

Spectrum Health spokesperson Susan Krieger said Spectrum has invested between $7 million and $10 million in its new iMRI surgical suite and the equipment. Construction began in October, with the iMRI magnet delivered and installed in December. The surgical and imaging teams started training with it in January, and she said the first use of the iMRI will be this month.

A Certificate of Need is required by the Michigan Department of Community Health before any hospital makes a major capital investment, to prevent inefficiencies in the medical care system that result in additional cost being passed on to the public. Spectrum was required to submit a CON for its proposed purchase of the iMRI and the new operating suite, which was reviewed and endorsed by the Alliance for Health about a year ago.

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