Intraoperative Magnetic Resonance Imaging (iMRI)

The state-of-the-art iMRI scanner allows neurosurgeons to carry out an intraoperative MRI scan of their patient’s brain during their surgery.

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As part of HCA Healthcare UK’s continued investment in the latest medical technology, The Wellington Hospital’s Neurosurgery Centre is now equipped with an intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (iMRI) scanner and fully integrated digital theatre.

The Wellington Hospital is one of the first private hospitals in the UK to use an iMRI scanner for patients undergoing neurosurgery. Patients from any of HCA UK’s hospitals and outpatients centres across the UK can now be referred to The Wellington Hospital for neurosurgery using iMRI. The Neurosurgery Centre has a global reputation for successfully managing and treating the most challenging neurological conditions.

What is iMRI surgery?

Surgeons use iMRI scanning technology to see the difference between healthy and abnormal tissue. Ordinarily, patients with brain tumours need to have an MRI scan on the day after their surgery, so their surgeon can check that they have successfully removed all of the tissue they had planned to remove. If any of the tissue remains, additional surgeries may be required to remove it.

How does the iMRI work?

Neurosurgeon, Mr Ian Sabin, talks through intraoperative MRI technology and explains the benefits of how it works during surgery for brain tumours.

Why intraoperative MRI?

The Wellington Hospital’s new iMRI scanner and fully integrated digital theatre allows surgeons to carry out an intraoperative MRI scan of their patient’s brain during their surgery. This gives the surgeon confidence that they have achieved their treatment goal. It also provides our patients with the best possible chance of tumours being removed fully without the need for further surgery.

Industry-leading technology

Operated by specialist, trained neurosurgeons at HCA UK The Wellington Hospital, the 3T Siemens scanner, integrated into the BrainLab digital operating theatre, provides high-definition images of the brain during surgery, helping to guide the surgery, distinguish abnormal tissue from normal tissue and protect critical structures, all within the operating room.

The new image-guidance software includes fibre track mapping of nerve fibres, used to plan a patient’s surgery. When a patient has an iMRI scan, the mapping software is automatically updated with their latest scan, so their surgeon can refer to the most up-to-date image during surgery.

Following the iMRI scan, if further surgery is needed, the surgeon can continue immediately, eliminating the need for patients to have an MRI scan soon after their surgery.

Michelle’s brain tumour story

In mid-2021, Michelle from Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, found herself unexpectedly struggling with her vision.

Having lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for over 23 years, Michelle originally put her eyesight struggles down to being a new symptom of her condition, or a reaction to ankle fusion surgery. After some routine tests, the optician speculated that glaucoma.

Michelle was referred to a consultant ophthalmologist for a series of tests to confirm whether or not her problems were caused by glaucoma. During these tests, it was recommended she have a brain CT scan, a routine measure intended simply to rule out any further issues.

However, one week later, she was called in to see her consultant who told her that the scans had shown a 3 ½ cm tumour on the brain.

Read Michelle's story

What are the benefits of using iMRI technology for our patients?

Brain surgery is often a frightening prospect for patients and their families, but the iMRI scanner offers the best possible surgical outcomes for patients with brain tumours, meaning that patients are less likely to need to return for follow-up surgery.

Carrying out an iMRI scan during surgery also allows the surgeon to be able to reassure their patient that the planned procedure has been successful straight after their operation, and removes the need for the patient to have an MRI scan while conscious on the day after their operation.

The iMRI scanner at The Wellington Hospital can be used to treat patients undergoing brain surgery for GliomaMeningioma, Craniopharyngioma, Germ cell tumours and Pituitary tumours.

The Neurosurgery Centre

The Wellington Hospital’s Neurosurgery Centre is a specialist centre for the treatment of neurological conditions. As one of the first private neurosurgery centres in the UK, the centre has pushed the boundaries of complex intracranial neurosurgery since it was established 40 years ago.

The Neurosurgery Centre’s established history is supported by the country’s leading Neurosurgeons, all of whom have a well-established reputation in the field. Neurosurgeons work alongside a wider team of neurologists, oncologists, neuroradiologists, neurophysiologists, clinical nurse specialists and physiotherapists to provide a multidisciplinary approach to each patient’s individual needs.

Across our UK wide network of 7 private hospitals including our Neurosurgery Centre at The Harley Street Clinic and supported by 21 diagnostic centres and specialist Leaders in Oncology Care cancer treatment centres, HCA UK provides unrivalled access for its patients to this innovative technology now available at The Wellington Hospital.

More about The Wellington Hospital Neurosurgery Centre