New MRI machine at U of M to help with 'surgeries of tomorrow'

Thanks to a new, 7.2 ton piece of equipment, doctors at the University of Minnesota Medical School will soon be able to perform ground-breaking surgeries.

Delivered Wednesday, the intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (IMRI) unit is part of a new cancer surgery suite at the school. 

Dr. Clark Chen, head of the Department of Neurosurgery at the university, can't wait to put the massive MRI machine to use.

“In prior generations of magnetic resonance imaging, the prior generations allow us to see the anatomy, to see what happened to the patient. This will allow us to see the physiology, the connections in the brain that were previously not possible to see,” he said.

Located in the “T suite,” the machine is accessible from three different operating rooms and the control center. 

“It creates a magnetic field 20,000 times more powerful than the earth itself,” Dr. Chen said. 

Artist renderings show what the surgical suite will look like, with the MRI machine able to move from one room to another and pivot 90 degrees. 

“The overall time from when the surgeon calls for the MRI to the time they are actually imaging is usually in the 15 minute mark,” he said. 

For example, stroke patients won't have to go into a radiology suite, followed by a CAT scan before doctors figure out what's wrong.

Thanks to the new machine, doctors can cut a couple hours of lag time down to minutes. 

“Whether you are operated on in 40 minutes versus 3 hours, this will make a big difference, and this will shorten that gap.

In addition to taking better care of patients, Dr. Chen points out the surgeries that will take place inside this $13 million investment suite will have the world watching. 

“This serves as a canvas for surgeons to paint the surgeries of tomorrow, of surgeries I can't even imagine can be done - and that’s the most exciting part,” he said. 

The surgical suite is expected to be completed Oct. 1.