Surgeons at Health Sciences Centre now have a valuable tool for removing brain tumours or treating patients who have suffered strokes or aneurysms.
On Monday, the hospital officially unveiled its centre for surgical innovation, featuring two advanced operating rooms built around a powerful MRI machine.
The configuration allows an MRI to be done in the middle of surgery so surgeons can check their work before stitching up a patient. For tumour removal, for instance, it means less likelihood that follow-up surgery will be needed or that cancer will return.
The $25-million centre on the second floor of the Kleysen Institute for Advanced Medicine is one of only seven of its type in the world. In addition to its use in the neurosurgical and angiogram operating suites, the MRI is also being deployed in medical imaging for outpatients -- maximizing its usage.
"This is a really exciting development for us. We have an opportunity to really make an impact in terms of clinical care and research," said Dr. Neil Berrington, head of neurosurgery at Health Sciences Centre. "What this technology allows us to do is image the brain in real time during procedures and during therapeutic manipulations of all sorts."
It will also help Winnipeg draw and retain top medical professionals, he said.
The federal government contributed $10 million to the centre, while the Health Sciences Centre Foundation is funding the rest. So far, the foundation has raised more than $10 million in donations.
The MRI used in the surgical centre was built by IMRIS, an intra-operative magnetic resonance imaging equipment manufacturer that was founded in Winnipeg. While the company recently relocated much of its operations to Minneapolis, it maintains its headquarters and a limited research and development presence in the city.
Berrington said use of an MRI during surgery will help avoid some repeat operations. Often, surgeons extracting a tumour must go back in when a subsequent test reveals it wasn't fully removed the first time. When operating on the brain and spinal cord, such repeat procedures come with risks.
"It's not a simple matter to return and take out more tumour," he said.
In the angiogram suite, doctors will be able to remove a blood clot and then, with the MRI, get immediate feedback.
There has been extensive staff training on the use of an MRI in an operating room. Experts have been brought in from Germany and the United States to assist in the instruction.
Jay Miller, chief executive officer of IMRIS, said the opening of the centre on the HSC campus "is a thrill" for his company.
"We are right on the cutting edge here," he told a ceremony hosted Monday by the Health Sciences Centre Foundation that included representatives of the federal and provincial governments and senior city health officials.
Miller said IMRIS has installed about 50 intra-operative systems worldwide and is in the process of putting in another 15 systems. But the configuration at HSC with the two operating suites and outpatient service is "very, very unique," he said.
The first surgery involving the MRI occurred on June 14. At the centre's current pace, it will perform 150 to 175 operations per year as well as conduct research.
It's located metres away from the intensive-care unit so patients with traumatic brain injuries can easily be wheeled in and scanned. The surgical suites are already supporting new research into brain injuries.