Transforming paediatric neurosurgery for the South of England

“Treatment of children with brain tumours has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. We are now seeing children presenting much later in their illness. As a consequence they are in a far worse condition compared to a few months ago. We are working hard to prioritise children with brain tumours despite the pandemic. They need the urgent surgery with cutting edge equipment. The campaign for the iMRI Suite is as important now as it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.” Aabir Chakreborty, Lead Consultant in Paediatric Neurosurgery

The iMRI Suite Appeal is The Murray Parish Trust’s latest challenge to raise £5.5 million to fund a revolutionary intra-operative MRI (iMRI) Suite at Southampton Children’s Hospital. This campaign will make the hospital a next generation centre for paediatric neurosurgery and pioneering research, which will advance the treatment and care of children across the region and beyond.

The hospital treats hundreds of children undergoing brain surgery each year and with 80% of these cases being emergency admissions, time truly is of the essence. Long-term survival rates significantly reduce if the patient is not operated on within 24-48 hours

Taking images of the brain using intra-operative MRI technology during surgery will make a dramatic difference for children with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions including tumours, hydrocephalus, epilepsy and trauma. These real-time images give the surgeon a greater chance of totally removing the tumour in that first operation. The accuracy and precision of the technology greatly reduces the chances of damaging healthy tissue during surgery and, crucially, prevents a child from being sedated for longer than needed.

“The intra-operative MRI will transform paediatric neurosurgery at Southampton Children’s Hospital. The iMRI will be revolutionary in providing the most accurate surgical procedures and, when not in use for emergency paediatrics, the iMRI will be used for routine scanning and adult neurosurgery. This new state-of-the-art equipment will also enable Southampton Hospital to become a pioneer in robotic neurosurgery.”

Dr  Aabir Chakraborty, Lead Consultant in Paediatric Neurosurgery

The current challenge

The specialist team of paediatric neurosurgeons at Southampton Children’s Hospital currently rely on MRI scans taken before surgery to guide them to the area of the brain requiring treatment. However, the brain is likely to shift during surgery, so pre-surgical imaging is no longer accurate as the operation progresses.

It isn’t till another scan is taken in the days after surgery that surgeons can finally see if the operation was successful. The child often has to remain sedated on the paediatric intensive care unit throughout this period, while their parents are anxiously waiting for results and facing the fear of further invasive surgery.



How can iMRI Help?

The iMRI is a vital piece of technology that enables surgeons to overcome some significant challenges by enabling real-time image scanning whilst the child is still in surgery.

The precision and accuracy of intra-operative MRI guides the surgeon when removing a brain tumour and other abnormal tissue, whilst being careful not to damage healthy tissue. The real-time imaging prevents a child being sedated for longer than needed and reduces the potential risk of another anaesthetic and further invasive operations to remove any remaining tumour or abnormality. There is a greater chance of totally removing the tumour in that first operation, and a child is more likely to be treated successfully.

iMRI technology is not just used for children with brain tumours but also with other life threatening or life limiting conditions such as trauma, hydrocephalus and epilepsy. Important research will also help unlock how iMRI technology can be used to diagnose and monitor mental health issues, ranging from depression to PTSD, therefore benefitting a greater reach of patients.

You can view the official iMRI Suite Appeal video here

Pioneering research

The iMRI Suite will help Southampton Hospital lead the way in paediatric neurosurgery, and also form part of a highly anticipated and pioneering Artificial Intelligence (AI) global study. Research outcomes will be far reaching and will potentially impact patients across the world. This cutting-edge technology will also explore the use of Augmented Reality alongside neurosurgery, as well as being used in the diagnosis and monitoring of Mental Health disorders.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and iMRI

AI is starting to become a reality in the world of medical imaging. There are numerous benefits of combining AI and iMRI:

  • Assisting neurosurgeons to predict those children who will benefit most from iMRI, helping with decision making and diagnosis.
  • Classification of normal and abnormal tissue.
  • Location of abnormalities if the brain has shifted during surgery.
  • Outcome predictions after surgery – guiding how best to treat and manage the patient after surgery, in the short and long-term.
  • Improving technology – deciding which iMRI techniques worked well and which didn’t and optimising as a result.

However, further research is required and the proposed iMRI Suite will be used to carry out a study into how AI can be used to benefit paediatric patients undergoing neurosurgery.

This will not only benefit local paediatric patients but will also deliver data and findings that can potentially be applied to patients anywhere in the world, and help surgeons globally with future clinical management of their patients.

“AI is the future … it will help aid faster and more accurate decision making; streamlining the diagnosis and treatment process and improving outcomes for patients. The proposed iMRI operating suite in Southampton is an ideal place to carry out this much needed research, in a clinical setting, and will benefit patients both locally and more widely.”

Angela Darekar, Medical Physics Lead

Augmented Reality (AR) and iMRI

The new iMRI Suite, will support research in the use of augmented reality in neurosurgery.

The use of this pioneering technology in neurosurgery is still in its infancy, but AR has the ability to revolutionise the way that neurosurgeons plan and perform surgical procedures.

The surgeon, wearing a head mounted display, is provided with a smart view of the patient with live images augmented with graphical representations of anatomical structures taken from imaging data. This provides the surgeon with a better view of the tumour and/or location being operated on.

This in-situ visualisation, where the computer maps the image information onto the patient, promises the most direct, intuitive guidance for surgical procedures and could be vital to the success of surgery and positive patient outcomes.

Watch Isaac’s story

Far reaching benefits

Southampton Children’s Hospital would be one of only a small number of specialist children’s hospitals in the UK using this state-of-the-art iMRI technology, creating a centre of excellence for the South of England. It will enable the best possible care near to home – something that is very close to our hearts at The Murray Parish Trust. At the same time, the research into the use of artificial intelligence and augmented reality and the use of iMRI with mental health patients, will have significant national and international reach.

“There are only a small number of paediatric neurosurgical centres in the UK, and with Southampton being one of these we need to ensure we are delivering a 21st century exemplary service. We already have the expert team of neurosurgeons, and now we need the most up to date equipment to complement and assist the treatments and care provided. So that our young patients, and families can rest assure that the best possible care has been provided.”

Dr Peter Wilson, Head of Southampton Children’s Hospital


Investment needed

The delivery of the iMRI scanner and operating suite forms part of a £24.8 million capital investment project to build a vertical extension to redefine the hospitals General Intensive Care Department and Theatre Area.

The iMRI Suite will be an integral part of the design for the new theatres which will be funded by The Murray Parish Trust.

  • £2.5 million   Construction/refurbishment of the operating suite
  • £2.5 million   Purchase of the iMRI
  • £500,000      Research into AI, AR and Mental Health

“The Murray Parish Trust is everything that’s right about raising money for health. They’re just great people to work with and I feel that if we can help them in any way at all, we’re helping good people.”

Tim Jobling, Barker-Mill Foundation Trustee


How Can You Help?

We are nothing without our amazing supporters, so we need YOU to help us make this a reality.

There are numerous ways you can get involved, including one-off donations, regular giving, volunteering, taking on personal challenges, sponsoring or running your own event, arranging corporate donations and company fundraising.

Thanks to our dynamic team and energetic spirit we are able to offer some truly unique partnership opportunities. We provide our supporters with the chance to experience our fresh and distinctive approach to fundraising, and we look forward to working together.

Do something amazing today!

Making a donation will help The Murray Parish Trust raise funds to advance the treatment and care of children from across our region and beyond.

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