Intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (iMRI) is a procedure to create images of the brain during surgery. Neurosurgeons rely on iMRI technology to create accurate pictures of the brain that guide them in removing brain tumors and other abnormalities during operations.

Advantages of iMRI

Though doctors use imaging tests to plan brain surgery, real-time images created with iMRI are crucial to:

  • Locate abnormalities if the brain has shifted. The brain often shifts during surgery, which makes pre-surgical imaging no longer exactly precise. Imaging with iMRI during the operation gives surgeons the most accurate information.
  • Distinguish abnormal brain tissue from normal brain tissue. It can be difficult to distinguish the edges of a brain tumor and separate normal tissue from abnormal tissue. Imaging with iMRI during surgery helps confirm successful removal of the entire brain tumor.

    Intraoperative MRI allows surgeons to achieve a more complete removal of some brain tumors. For this reason, iMRI has become the standard of care for operations to remove certain brain tumors.

How iMRI works

MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues in your body. MRI is especially helpful for imaging the brain.

To utilize MRI technology during surgery, doctors use special imaging systems and operating rooms, including:

  • Portable iMRI devices, which are moved into the operating room to create images
  • Nearby iMRI devices, which are kept in a room adjacent to the operating room so that doctors can easily move you to the adjacent room for imaging during your surgery

At certain points in your operation, the surgeon may request imaging with iMRI. When and how often iMRI images are created during surgery depends on your procedure and your condition.

Uses for iMRI

Doctors use iMRI to assist in surgery to treat:

  • Collaboration. At Mayo Clinic, neurosurgeons and radiologists work as a multidisciplinary team to provide whole-person care for people considering brain surgery that uses iMRI. Other professionals are included as needed.
  • Experience. Mayo Clinic doctors have extensive experience utilizing iMRI during surgery. Your care team is prepared with the knowledge and resources to provide you with exactly the care you need.
  • Access to the latest. Mayo Clinic doctors have access to the latest technology that provides high-resolution (high-field) iMRI. Doctors have the option to combine iMRI with other cutting-edge technologies, such as awake brain surgery and brain mapping (electrophysiologic mapping).

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks #1 for neurology and neurosurgery in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery, and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is ranked high performing for neurology and neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic also ranks among the Best Children's Hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery.

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At Mayo Clinic, specialists in neurosurgery and radiology use iMRI to ensure the best treatment for people with brain tumors and other neurological disorders.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic, specialists in neurosurgery and radiology use iMRI to ensure the best treatment for people with brain tumors and other neurological disorders.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Specialists at Mayo Clinic continue to develop new ways to use iMRI to improve surgery outcomes, such as combining brain mapping (electrophysiologic mapping) with iMRI for glioblastoma surgery. Mayo Clinic is one of the few organizations worldwide to report using this technique.

Researchers also are combining iMRI with other novel imaging techniques, such as fluorescence-guided surgery.

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic authors on iMRI on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Aug. 15, 2014