How suite it is: Children’s Minnesota unveils first-of-its-kind neurosurgery space

New MRI machines at Children’s Minnesota Neurosurgery suite can scan during operations

New MRI machines at Children's Minnesota Neurosurgery suite can scan during operations

A new neurosurgery suite at Children’s Minnesota that is the first of its kind in North America has now served its first patients, making them the first children in the country to undergo surgery in this type of highly specialized space.

The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation iMRI (interoperative-MRI) Surgical Suite opened at the Minneapolis hospital back in March, performing both brain and total spine scans mid-surgery.

Children’s Minnesota told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it is now the first pediatric hospital system in North America equipped with both moving-scanner and moving-patient MRI technology in the same surgical space.

The MRI is built on a set of tracks on the ceiling, allowing it to move into a patient’s room in the middle of an operation.

The three-room suite has two operating rooms and a diagnostic room.

“It’s really a unique setup. It’s the first one that’s ever been designed this way,” said Dr. Kyle Halvorson, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children’s Minnesota. “It has the ability to serve three patients simultaneously. It’s a huge, huge win for the kids we’re taking care of to have this technology right in our backyard.”

Nine-year-old John Decker from Sherburne County was among the first kids to have brain surgery in the new iMRI suite.

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His parents first realized something was wrong a few months ago when his left hand started cramping.

“It would cramp up like this and I would have to pry my fingers apart,” Decker said.

Doctors then discovered John had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball.

“We were both shocked. We literally held each other and cried,” recalled John’s mother, Stacy Decker. “I said, ‘Not my son.'”

John had brain surgery in May, the day after his ninth birthday.

About four hours into his brain operation, while he was still under anesthesia, the MRI moved into his room and took thousands of images of his brain.

That allowed doctors to see in real-time if they had removed the entire mass, before waking John up from surgery.

Before iMRI was available, children would have to come back for a follow-up MRI on another day.

“Many kids in the past had multiple surgeries, whereas now this is a one-and-done,” Halvorson explained. “It has really given us awesome results for the kids we’re taking care of. We know we can walk out of the surgery, look the parents in the eye and say, ‘We’re finished.'”

John’s father Christopher Decker said, “As a parent, that’s really exciting. It gives the surgeon a better advantage and it gives the kids a better advantage. And it won’t just be our kid, it will be everybody that’s faced with the same thing we are.”

John, in true fourth-grade fashion, said he is grateful to have his life back.

“I can use this hand to drink Gatorade finally!” John laughed. “It’s a lot better.”

Doctors expect John to make a full recovery and regain all of his fine motor skills over the coming months, with occupational therapy and physical therapy.

“I get goosebumps thinking how awesome that technology was available for our son,” Stacy Decker said.

The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation made a $4 million donation for the new neurosurgery suite and has launched an additional $1.5 million matching challenge to further support iMRI and the neurosciences program at Children’s Minnesota. The challenge is happening through Dec. 31, 2023. If the community gives $1.5 million exclusively to this challenge, the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation will match the amount. Click here to donate or learn more.