Donald Macarthur gives us a tour around the new iMRI facility and explains how children will benefit from the new treatment
Scanning a brighter horizon for children with brain tumours
A long-held ambition which will revolutionise treatment for children with brain tumours has been realised at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre, with the installation and opening of a state-of-the-art Intraoperative MRI (iMRI) facility.
The £6.2m project has only been made possible by your support as part of a fundraising collaboration between the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Nottingham, the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Nottingham Hospitals Charity.
The facility, which began operating in mid-November, will transform the way in which brain tumours can be operated upon, which will mean better results for patients and consequentially fewer operations too.
A clue to what makes this scanner special is the word ‘intraoperative’ – normally MRI scans can only take place before and after surgery, which means it can be difficult to know exactly how successful tumour removal has been until a procedure is completed.
However, the new Intraoperative MRI Scanner will allow surgeons to see MRI scans during surgery, which will enable them to determine exactly how much of the tumour they have removed, and whether any is left behind.
David Walker, Professor of Paediatric Oncology at the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre, said: "The decision to initiate the project came about after it became clear that this new technology offered real benefits to children with brain tumours. The families experiencing the brain tumour therapies wanted to ensure that their children, being treated in Nottingham, had access to the best equipment and the lead brain surgeon Donald MacArthur went out of his way to identify the best technical solution.
"A variety of individuals and charities lobbied hard to persuade the Hospital and University leaders to support this combined fundraising campaign. The response from our supporters and fundraisers in the community, including the University's Life Cycle team in 2014 and 2016, was fantastic and the team here are very grateful for everyone's combined efforts.
"Once the project was supported, the NHS team worked exceptionally hard to identify partnership funding, review the design and create an environment for the scanner for to be used for both intra-operative use and for enhancing scanning facility for children under anaesthesia.
"The managers and designers have overcome the technical challenges of introducing the complex technology into an established building with all the inter-relationships it required. The build and commissioning process has been supported throughout the uncertainties of the past year. The vision we had is being realised today as we acknowledge the successful completion of this project."
As well as enabling more effective treatment, an important secondary benefit of the new scanner will be the capacity it provides to increase the number of clinical research trials – something which is currently under intense pressure locally, with many requests having to be turned down.
Clinical research trials can be valuable as the majority of patients who participate will benefit from better long-term outcomes for their health than those who do not.
Because many of these trials require children to be scanned under general anaesthetic – something which the NHS Trust previously did not have a dedicated facility for – the new scanner will be able to provide this function and become the primary diagnostic scanner when it is not in use by the theatres.
"The University of Nottingham hosted the invention of MRI, installed the first clinical MRI scanner in the world, performed the early clinical development work to establish its clinical role, has continued to innovate with MR technology as world leaders in the field and is now expanding its capacity with this state of the art application of MRI to enhance safety of brain tumour surgery. This is yet another step along the way in the pursuit of excellence in innovation, we have great hopes for the learning and clinical benefits that will come from this facility."
Thanks to the generosity of supporters like you and other fundraising partners, the future for many young children with brain tumours will be much brighter for years to come.