The present and future role of intraoperative MRI in neurosurgical procedures

Stereotact Funct Neurosurg. 1997;68(1-4 Pt 1):10-7. doi: 10.1159/000099896.


Objective: We have worked in conjunction with scientists from the General Electric Corporation over 6 years to develop an open-bore MR imaging system (0.5 T) enabling optimal vertical access of surgeon and assistant to the patient, and real-time imaging during major neurosurgical procedures.

Methods: The intraoperative MR system (MRT) is located in a specially modified operative suite that combines the features of an MR-imaging suite with a fully functional operating room. An MR-compatible anesthesia machine and patient-monitoring device are located next to the magnet. The position of instruments, platforms and supports may be mapped in the operative field using 3 charge-coupled device video cameras mounted in the overhead support truncheon that follow various light-emitting diodes on the devices (Pixsys). The MR image plane can be defined as the axial, coronal or sagittal views through a point along the vector beneath the Pixsys tripod. A variety of surface coils were designed to take full advantage of full open patient access. The software, implemented by a technologist located outside the MR room, is now equivalent to that available on the commercial 0.5-tesla Signa Advantage system. Development of very robust 3-dimensional software in conjunction with the Surgical Planning Laboratory (SPL) at the Brigham & Women's Hospital is the subject of significant effort. The MRT system has been shown to possess imaging capabilities comparable, or even slightly superior (by 10%), to a conventional 0.5-tesla MR scanner. Two modified liquid-crystal display screens are mounted on the magnet housing for the surgeon to monitor the images during the procedures. Projection into larger screens or the operating microscope is under development.

Results: We have performed 110 neurosurgical cases in MRT as of January 29, 1997, including 47 biopsies, 6 catheter placements, 4 cyst drainages, 47 craniotomies for resection, 3 spinal cases (1 syrinx drainage), and 3 laser tumor ablations.

Conclusions: MRT is especially useful in guiding biopsies and resections near cysts, ventricles and critical vascular structures where preoperative images with framed/frameless techniques would be inadequate to show anatomic changes during the procedure. Real-time images of a biopsy needle within the abnormal area are very useful in cases of subtle pathologic change. More complete resection of infiltrative tumor is readily accomplished. SPL image fusion of SPECT and neurofunctional data (e.g. from magnetic stimulation preoperatively) into the imaging space enables the surgeon to better visualize tumor invasion or neural function in real-time imaging during resection. Imaging of thermal gradients for cryoprobe or laser ablation, and combination with endoscopy and robotics will offer additional benefit in the performance of difficult neurosurgical procedures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Brain Neoplasms / surgery
  • Craniotomy / methods
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Care / instrumentation
  • Intraoperative Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Monitoring, Intraoperative / instrumentation
  • Monitoring, Intraoperative / statistics & numerical data
  • Neurosurgery / methods*
  • Neurosurgery / trends