£600,000 donation for UK’s first in-theatre intraoperative brain scanner

An appeal to raise funds for the UK’s first in-theatre intraoperative MRI scanner — which will allow Nottingham surgeons to take detailed scans of a patient’s brain while on the operating table — has reached a major milestone.

The £1.6 million project appeal to establish the PoleStar unit, being led by The University of Nottingham, has now reached £1,150,000 thanks to a £600,000 donation from the leading national charity Children with Cancer UK.

In addition to benefitting patients, the scanner will be used by academics at the University’s Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre (CBTRC) in vital research into improving outcomes for people suffering with rare forms of brain tumours.

Professor David Walker, Co-Director of the CBTRC, said: “This equipment will ensure that the children get the help they need during brain surgery to maximise its effect and keep them safe. Introducing special technology is a key step to improving quality of care for cancer, linking its introduction to a programme of research will maximise the learning.  Nottingham’s founding role in MR invention places this first UK intra-operative scanner in a uniquely expert centre, equipped to maximise its further application and development.”

Mary Foulkes OBE, Chief Executive of Children with Cancer UK said: “Thanks to the wonderful generosity of our supporters I am delighted that we can make a significant contribution to this ground-breaking project. This equipment will help scientists and surgeons to make a real difference to the lives of children diagnosed with brain cancer today and for future generations.”

The project is a partnership between Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottingham Children’s Hospital and the CBTRC, which is an internationally-renowned centre for excellence in paediatric neuro-oncology research.

The PoleStar is a low-field intraoperative MRI scanner that can be fitted into existing theatre suites and will provide surgeons with relatively high resolution MRI scans quickly within the operating theatre without the need to move the patient off the table.

It will be fitted into Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust’s Theatre 9 at the Queen’s Medical Centre, a dedicated neurosurgery operating theatre, and will be the first one-room system of its kind in the UK.

The system will allow the surgeon to visualise moreeasily the extent and position of the tumour to ensure that all, or as much as possible, of the tumour is safely removed during the operation.

Surgeons will be able to use the system to monitor for other complications during surgery such as hydrocephalus, brain swelling or bleeding and in many cases it should reduce the need for additional surgery.

As it will help surgeons to remove all cancerous cells, it should also reduce the patient’s need for other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Crucially, it could also help to reduce the debilitating disabilities that many patients affecting many patients post-surgery, as surgeons will be able to remove tumours more accurately and reduce the amount of healthy tissue which is damaged during the operation.

Donald Macarthur, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Surgery for brain tumours, especially in children, is usually about trying to remove as much of the tumour tissue as possible, as safely as possible, from within the delicate functioning brain tissue. The shape, nature or location of some tumours means this is not always straightforward. This type of intraoperative MRI scanner will enable us to carry out a high quality scan or indeed several scans if necessary, lasting just a few minutes each during the operation while the patient is actually on the operating table to ensure the best possible result is achieved.

“The evidence from units in the rest of the world where scanners of this type are used is that one-third of patients will have an improved or complete resection as a result of the intraoperative scan information. This will be the first PoleStar MRI in the UK and we at NUH are excited about the potential clinical benefit it will bring to our patients and enormously grateful to Children with Cancer UK for their generous support.”

James Hunter, Clinical Director for Neurosurgery at NUH, said: “We’re delighted to be the first hospital trust in the country to receive this scanner. It will be a fantastic asset for NUH’s operating theatres and our talented team of neurosurgeons. We are extremely grateful to all those who have helped raise the funds and proud to be leading the way in treating children with brain tumours.”

The donation has been made through Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, the University’s biggest ever fundraising appeal which has raised £116 million towards its £150 million target and is already transforming lives locally, nationally and internationally. The CBTRC is being supported through the campaign’s Health and Wellbeing theme.

The PoleStar MRI scanner appeal is also set to benefit from a £150,000 contribution from the Life Cycle 4 challenge, which will see a team of volunteers from The University of Nottingham cycling more than 1,400 miles to the four corners of Great Britain in August this year.

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