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U of M building first-in-the-world cancer surgical suite

"It will be the most advanced surgical suite in the world," said Dr. Chuck Dietz, Chair of the Department of Radiology at the U of M.

MINNEAPOLIS – University of Minnesota Health and Fairview Health Services are building a first-in-the-world surgical suite promising to revolutionize the way brain cancers are treated.

It's simply called the T-suite, named for its shape.

Each of the four rooms in the suite possess different technologies, all with access to a ceiling mounted mobile magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. This means a patient will never have to leave the table for the surgeon to see what’s happening in the brain.

“It will be the most advanced surgical suite in the world,” said Dr. Chuck Dietz, Chair of the Department of Radiology at the U of M.

To grasp the breakthrough of this new series of operating rooms, you must understand the current technological hurdles it will jump over.

As advanced as brain surgery is today, neurosurgeons are limited by the tools that exist.

“The current surgical suite relies on the surgeon's eyes or relies on an X-ray that is brought into the room and we know that there are certain things we just can't see with X-rays,” said Dr. Clark Chen, head of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “There are situations where we think we removed all the tumor, and we get a scan after the surgery and we say, ‘Oh my gosh. We left some behind.'”

The best way to see tumors inside the brain is through MR scans. But these giant magnetic scanners—which can weigh as much as 10 Ford F-150s—are often fixed in a separate room outside an operating room.

They also produce a significant magnetic field pulling anything metallic toward it.

Multi-phase procedures can take months to surgically remove tumors and then scan the patient to see the results.

Doctors at the U of M say these will soon become problems of the past.

In the T-suite, instead of transferring a patient for an MR scan, the machine comes to them.

Now, surgeons can check their work in real time, doing multi-phased surgeries in one day.

The suite also comes with an observation tower.

“It's like the VIP box in the football stadium. People from all over the world, scientists and surgeons cold come and see how we do it here,” said Dr. Chen.

The T-suite is part of the $111 million renovation at the U of M Medical Center, which should be ready by the end of next year. The university said it put in $13 million just for the suite.