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U of M pioneers new 'T-suite' surgical room

The advanced neurosurgical operating area features a first-in-the-world design that allows an MRI machine to enter and exit three operating rooms during surgery.

A first-of-its-kind surgery suite at the University of Minnesota has just helped its first patient stave off a pair of life-threatening brain tumors.

"With how fast this was growing, we were looking at probably less than three months to live," said Dr. Clark Chen, looking at a pair of MRI scans belonging to 79 year old Margaret Z Morris, of Grand Rapids. "This suite will help patients in ways we couldn't imagine previously."

Dr. Chen is referring to the new “T-suite” located at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center. The advanced neurosurgical operating area features a first-in-the-world design that allows an MRI machine to enter and exit three operating rooms during surgery.

"You could actually see the changes in the brain as we were treating the tumors so that we could adjust our maneuvers in real time,” Dr. Chen said. “I could make adjustments as to not injure the brain."

That precision meant that Morris had a faster recovery, allowing Dr. Chen and the rest of the neurosurgery team to perform two delicate tumor removals in just five days.

"After the second tumor was treated, she's now seizure free,” Dr. Chen said. “I think the picture speaks a thousand words. You can see her and you can see how well she's doing."

Doctors says Morris’ brain tumors spread from a cancer somewhere else in her body, but they now have time to find the source. In the meantime, she’ll soon be able to return home for Thanksgiving.

"I’m very lucky to be here in this hospital," she said. "It's wonderful."

Her husband Arthur Merrill agrees.

“My first wife had a brain tumor,” Merrill said. "In the 30 some years since my first wife died of cancer, it's just a different world of care. It's a miracle.”

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