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 Chakraborty, Lead Consultant in Paediatric Neurosurgery

Launched in June 2019, the iMRI Suite Appeal is The Murray Parish Trust’s latest challenge to raise funds for 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.

Thanks to a review of the project costs undertaken in collaboration with the team at University Hospital Southampton in December 2020, together with the provision of additional funds by UHS itself, the iMRI Suite Appeal target has now been reduced to £2.1 million. This means our campaign is now in a stronger position in a challenging environment; donations will now have an even greater impact and we are well on our way to reaching our target.

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.

“Being told your child has a brain tumour must be one of the hardest things a parent has to hear. As part of my job I’m involved in these conversations on a regular basis and it doesn’t get any easier. iMRI has led to improvements in surgical outcomes and may also reduce the need for further surgeries. This is a positive step forward and may help reduce anxiety to parents who have been devastated by the news about their child.

As a children’s neurosurgical nurse I’m there to support the parents as well as care for the child and value greatly any new developments that can improve their journey, overall experience and final outcome.”

Kate Bailey, Children’s Neurosurgery Nurse Specialist

You can view the official iMRI Suite Appeal video here

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 iMRI Suite forms part of a £30 million new vertical extension which will redefine the hospital’s General Intensive Care Department and Operating Theatres. The iMRI Suite project will cost £6.9m, with the NHS investing £4.8m.

Our £2.1m campaign will fund the elements that will transform how brain surgery is performed and help save more lives.

• 1.5T MRI Scanner

• Protective RF cage for the scanner room

• Advanced neurological software

• Specialist operating table & transfer/docking system into the scanner

• Specialist MRI safe theatre equipment

“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 support the mental health of seriously ill children and their families across the UK.

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