Akron General Medical Center is boosting its brain power with the launch of three new smart operating rooms.
Doctors and staff are training this week in three new high-tech operating room suites dedicated primarily to treating patients with brain cancer, epilepsy, spine issues and other neurological problems.
MRI or CT scans taken immediately before a surgery will be used to provide the surgeon computerized guidance during the procedure, similar to a GPS navigation system.
“That tells us exactly where we are in the brain,” said Dr. Georges Z. Markarian, chair of Akron General’s Neurosciences Department.
Images and other information needed throughout surgeries will be displayed on four large-screen monitors across the wall in each room.
The intraoperative MRI suite will enable specialists to view images of a patient’s brain taken from a machine in an adjacent room while the patient remains under anesthesia.
By getting images before a brain surgery is finished, surgeons can make sure a tumor is entirely removed, Markarian said.
Typically, patients don’t undergo a follow-up MRI until as long as 48 hours after brain surgery, he said. Consequently, about 10 percent nationwide need a subsequent operation because some remaining tumor cells are discovered.
“It’s better for patient care,” Markarian said.
Two of the renovated ORs will share a CT scanner that can travel on rails between the suites as needed to capture images that will be loaded into the computerized system to help guide the surgeons during minimally invasive spine and other procedures.
These procedures now are done using live X-rays, which are less precise and require OR staff to wear heavy lead aprons for protection, Markarian said.
The intraoperative CT “increases safety for the patient,” he said.
Though the initial focus is on neurosurgery, the ORs can be used for other types of surgeries, including orthopedic, trauma, gynecologic and ear, nose and throat, Markarian said.
Akron General is one of only four hospitals nationwide to have both intraoperative CT and MRI capabilities, according to Brainlab, an international firm that develops, manufactures and markets software-driven medical technology.
Though cross-town rival Summa Health System doesn’t have MRI or CT in its ORs, the health system does have an intraoperative system that allows surgeons to be guided by MRI and CT images that were taken of the patient before the procedure, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
The launch of the high-tech OR suites is another major step in Akron General’s ongoing effort to expand services for patients with brain cancer and other neurological disorders.
The health system is investing about $30 million in equipment and renovations for its Neuroscience Institute to boost its ability to treat patients with brain cancer and other neurological disorders.
The Neuroscience Institute is one of only five programs in the state to have a Gamma Knife, which uses precise beams of radiation instead of an actual knife to target and destroy brain tumors and other cranial disorders while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.
In addition, Akron General opened a neurological intensive-care unit about a year ago to treat patients recovering from strokes, traumatic brain injuries, brain surgery and other serious neurological problems.
As part of the expansion, Akron General is continuing to recruit more neurosurgeons and neurologists to the staff.
Hospitals nationwide are exploring ways to boost their neuroscience capabilities, according to the Advisory Board Co., an international research, technology and consulting firm.
Hospitals expect to treat more patients with stroke, Parkinson’s disease, brain cancer and other neurological problems as baby boomers age, said Shruti Tiwari, a consultant with the Advisory Board.
Neurosurgeries tend to be among the most profitable procedures for hospitals nationwide, averaging more than $10,800 in profits per inpatient case, according to a report from the consulting firm.
Additional “downstream revenue” is likely from rehabilitation, physical therapy, imaging tests and other post-surgical care, Tiwari said.
In competitive markets, development of a comprehensive neuroscience program also benefits hospitals by giving them “more of a premier reputation,” said Ashley Ford, a senior consultant with the Advisory Board.
Akron General is continuing its neuroscience expansion efforts, with a new angiography suite under construction to treat strokes, aneurysms and other vascular problems of the brain.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.