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Brain Surgery MRI

Each year, 100,000 Americans get the same devastating diagnosis--brain tumor. When told surgery is the only option, most are terrified of complications, including diminished brain function.

Even the most accurate MRIs and CAT scans cannot always tell surgeons where a brain tumor begins and ends. But a new type of MRI could radically change the way brain surgery is performed, giving doctors a second set of eyes in the operating room and a better chance to reduce dangerous complications.

Joanna Toledo, a 55-year-old mother of seven, had been anguished after doctors discovered a large white mass on her brain.

"When they told me I got a tumor in the brain, I said, 'No, no, I can't believe it. This can't happen to me; it's impossible!'"

Three days after Mother's Day, Joanna went under the knife at Newark's University Hospital. An innovative technology called intraoperative MRI, developed in Israel, helped.

The portable imaging system can pinpoint the exact location and size of a tumor, helping doctors to avoid removing too little tumor or taking out too much tissue, including healthy brain.

"By doing the MRI, you can confirm that the whole tumor has been removed and there is no reason to risk unnecessary injury to the brain," explains Dr. Michael Shulder, a neurologist at Newark University Hospital.

Traditional MRIs, while excellent at helping doctors diagnose a brain tumor, cannot be used in the operating room because strong magnetic forces would suck in the surgical instruments. But the new technology can be used in the operating room before, during, and after brain surgery, giving doctors an accurate view of a tumor's position at all times.

That information is crucial because during surgery, the brain can shift, making it difficult for doctors to match old MRI films to what they are seeing with the naked eye. The new MRI virtually eliminates the guesswork.

On the day of Joanna's operation, the MRI uncovers an unwelcome surprise: Doctors discovers more swelling on her brain than expected--but better to learn this before the surgery than during.

After shaving Joanna's head, doctors use the information from the new MRI to map out a strategy for the 3-hour surgery that Joanna prays will end without complication.

Joanna came through the surgery just fine. It turns out her tumor was benign but had to removed because it was growing so rapidly. She is now recovering at home and says her memory and mental function seem normal.

Her doctor left behind a tiny piece of the tumor for safety reasons. A radiation treatment may be necessary in the future but the hospital says her prognosis is excellent.

The name of the MRI is Polestar N-10, manufactured by Odin Medical Technologies.

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