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Identifying a better target for DBS

Aviva Abosch, M.D., Ph.D. (Photo: Bill Alkofer)

For a decade and a half, the tools used to identify brain structures critical for deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery have included magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with a 1.5 Tesla magnet (that’s the strength of magnet in most hospital MR machines today) and a standardized anatomical atlas that shows where brain structures should be.

University of Minnesota neurosurgeon Aviva Abosch, M.D., Ph.D., wondered whether other, higher-tech imaging techniques might improve those visuals and thereby the placement of DBS electrodes.

She consulted with brain imaging specialist Noam Harel, Ph.D., at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR), who sat in on a patient’s surgery to understand the pivotal role MR technology plays in DBS.

Harel explored whether a stronger magnet, like the 7 Tesla available at the CMRR, might offer more a detailed image—and it did. The results were phenomenal.

“When Dr. Abosch saw the clarity of the 7 Tesla images and the detail they provide, her eyes popped,” Harel says.

The images are so crisp, in fact, that Abosch can see critical blood vessels in the brain that otherwise would only be visible with the injection of contrast dye.

The findings evolved into a paper they published in the journal Neurosurgery.

The team hopes to begin a three-phase study to optimize the use of 7 Tesla magnets for the procedure. Says Abosch, “This level of imaging may make DBS an even more precise surgery that’s easier for patients and ultimately safer, too.”

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