The Ultimate Operating Room
If you happen to need brain surgery, the place to be is M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston. The center's new $9.2-million operating room, called the BrainSUITE, features one of the most sophisticated neurosurgical setups on the planet (soon to be available in seven other U.S. hospitals). Ceiling-mounted cameras give surgeons a magnified view of the brain, giant "data billboards" display vital signs throughout the room, and an extra-wide MRI scanner can accommodate bodies in nearly any position, so patients lying on their side don't need to be bandaged up and rolled onto their back to slide into the machine. A surgeon simply swivels the operating table into the scanner to inspect his handiwork. (Scalpels and other magnetic objects, however, must first be moved out of range of the magnet.)
All of this helps to eliminate the dangerous guesswork inherent to brain surgery. With brain tumors, for instance, a surgeon must remove 98 percent of the growth to give the patient a shot at surviving beyond one year. This creates a delicate balancing act. Take out too much tissue, and you increase the chance of damaging other parts of the brain. But leave behind more than two percent of the mass, and it might regenerate, shaving as many as four months off the patient's lifespan. With the MRI-equipped BrainSUITE, a surgeon can determine in a matter of minutes whether there's a need to go back in to finish the job-and can get the patient off the table as quickly and safely as possible.-Michael Rosenwald
For a look at laser scalpels, skull drills, and robotic arms on hand to aid today's neurosurgeons, launch the gallery here.