Background: Several models for the application of intra-operative magnetic resonance imaging (IMRI) have recently been reported, most of them unique. Two fundamental issues need to be addressed: optimal use of the scanner to ensure a wide base for research, development and clinical application, and an organisational model that facilitates such use.
Method: While in our setting the IMRI project was initiated by the neurosurgeons, the need for wider use of the facilities was recognised since the beginning of the planning phase in 1996. An organisational model was developed that allowed for development of neurosurgical applications, radiological imaging, and radiological interventions and for the research and development work of the vendor. A resistive 0.23 T MR scanner was installed in a dedicated operating room environment. Unique to this scanner is the ability to turn off the magnet, allowing for normal OR activities and devices, and to turn on the magnet as needed with a relatively short six-minute ramp up time. A staged surgical technique was perfected, allowing for transfer of data to the neuronavigator outside the scanner during surgery. In neurosurgery, IMRI was used as one part of a neuronavigational system that included ultrasound imaging, intra-operative cortical stimulation during awake procedures, electrocorticography and two neuronavigators.
Findings: 34 neurosurgical cases included 27 brain tumour resections, 5 brain tumour biopsies, 1 extirpation of an arterio-venous malformation, and 1 haematoma evacuation. The scanner could also be used for normal clinical imaging where obese patients, children, claustophobic patients and postoperative control examinations were the major groups. The radiologists performed 110 interventions, including bone and abdominal biopsies, nerve root infiltrations and local pain therapies, with the optical needle tracking system under continuous MRI guidance. The organisational model allowed frequent use of the facilities for both neurosurgery and radiology and continuous development of the facilities. Intra-operative ultrasound was used in 20 tumour resections and in two open brain biopsies. This resulted in reduction of the number of MR imaging sessions during surgery. Five of the 27 resections were performed as awake craniotomies with cortical stimulation. For two of the resections, electrocorticography and depth electrode registrations were used. Furthermore, various non-MRI-compatible instruments and devices were used.
Interpretation: Intra-operative MRI is an imaging tool that can be useful especially in the context of neuronavigation. A scanner that can be turned off during surgery is particularly appropriate for neurosurgery. The concept of joint use of such facilities with other clinicians is mutually worthwhile.