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University of Utah installs new imaging equipment beneficial for stroke care

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2 2012 4:47 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A 9-ton imaging machine was dropped into place Tuesday, marking a new era for the University of Utah's Clinical Neurosciences Center.

The new technology — an intraoperative 3 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging system — will allow stroke patients to receive customized treatment based on their individual level of need and a real-time reading of actual tissue damage to their brains while surgery is ongoing.

"Time is brain, it really is," said Dr. Steve Stevens, a neurointerventionalist and chairman of the University of Utah's Department of Radiology. "The longer you wait, the more brain that dies and the worse the outcome."

The powerful magnet can provide a look at blood flow going into the brain without using contrast, which can lead to negative side effects.

Stroke patients, Stevens said, have a limited amount of time where treatment can help to save the brain and its abilities. The new technology will cut anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour from the typical diagnosis and treatment procedure.

"We need to get to patients as early as possible," he said. The new MRI can also help doctors pinpoint when a stroke actually occurred, which could aid in researching the causes of blood loss to the brain as well as better frame rehabilitation efforts.

The U.'s new MRI tube moves along ceiling-mounted rails and is shared between two operating rooms — completing a three-room treatment suite at the center. It is the first time such immediate imaging techniques will be applied for stroke and treatment of other neurovascular disorders.

"We will be able to provide stroke and brain tumor care in a way that it has never been provided before," said Rick Shumway, director of neurosciences at the U. Real-time photos of the brain, he said, could "essentially change the course of the procedure."

Shumway said the cost of the device is covered by leftover funding from University Hospital, a nonprofit organization. Incentives in place allow for remaining monies to be reinvested within the facility.

The MRI should be up and running and expecting patients in January. It is housed on the second floor of the Clinical Neurosciences Center, which is under construction. Remodeling will be complete in November.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com Twitter: wendyleonards

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