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Real-Time MRI a Boost to Brain Tumor Surgery

Tracking brain's speech, movement centers improves safety, surgeons say

TUESDAY, Aug. 29, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- High-tech functional MRI (fMRI), which lets doctors view real-time brain activity, may improve the safety of delicate procedures involved in brain tumor surgery, experts say.

A team at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, N.C., says fMRI helps surgeons pinpoint motor and language areas of the brain, reducing the risk of damaging these important brain areas.

The study, published in the September issue of Radiology, included 39 patients with operable brain tumors.

"In patients who underwent fMRI, neurosurgeons estimated that more tumor was removed at surgery, operations were shorter and skull incisions were smaller, compared with what they would have had if the fMRI data were not available," Dr. Jeffrey R. Petrella, an associate professor of radiology in Duke's neuroradiology division, said in a prepared statement.

In 19 of the 39 patients, surgeons significantly changed their treatment plans after reviewing the fMRI findings. Eighteen of those 19 patients had more aggressive surgery than was previously planned, the study said.

In 22 patients, information provided by fMRI helped decrease surgical time by between 15 to 60 minutes. In six patients, the fMRI findings enabled a more complete tumor removal than otherwise would have been achieved, the study found.

The findings suggest that fMRI may make it possible to safely perform surgery in patients who previously may have been ineligible for surgery due to the location of their brain tumor, Petrella said.

"This is a pilot study. To establish whether fMRI can become a new standard of care, the next step is to assess whether patients outcomes are actually improved in a large, multi-center trial with a control group," he said.

More information

The Brain Tumor Society has more about brain tumors.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Aug. 29, 2006
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