YOUR HEALTH: A new MRI to detect brain cancer

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MIAMI, Florida – Surgery to remove brain cancer is tricky: oftentimes the surgeon doesn't get the entire tumor and that might require a second operation.  And more anesthesia.

But new technology is making that less likely.

It helped Willie and Pleshette Young, who know raising five kids isn't easy.  Nothing could have prepared them when six-year-old Willie Junior got sick.

"Out of nowhere it was 'I'm having headaches dad, I'm having headaches mom'", recalled Willie, Senior.

A CT scan detected a life-threatening situation.   Willie was rushed to Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami for emergency surgery.

"He had a lot of pressure on his brain from a mass that was growing in the center of his brain," recalled Dr. Toba Niazi, a pediatric neurosurgeon.

Doctors had to remove the tumor right away.   It often takes more than one surgery.

Now intraoperative MRI is changing that.

"What this technology does is it brings MRI imaging, direct imaging, of the brain without radiation into the operating room," said Dr. John Regheb, chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Nicklaus Hospital.

Neurosurgeons rely on iMRI technology to create accurate pictures of the brain that guide them in removing brain tumors and other abnormalities during operations. Though doctors use imaging tests to plan brain surgery, real-time images created with iMRI are crucial to locate abnormalities if the brain has shifted, and distinguish abnormal brain tissue from normal brain tissue. MRI uses magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues in your body.

"If there's a piece of that tumor that's remaining that we weren't able to discern during surgery then we can go in and take that last piece out," explained Dr. Niazi.

Preventing the child from another operation and anesthesia.

"Any sort of lesion in the brain, I think this really needs to be the gold standard," said Dr. Niazi.

Thanks to the I-MRI, doctors were able to remove most of Willie's tumor without causing damage.

"I just thank God and the technology that was used during the surgery to bring our baby back," said Willie's mom, Pleshette.

So Willie can keep playing with his siblings for years to come.

PEDIATRIC NEUROSURGERY:  iMRI`s are beneficial to both children and adults with brain tumors. In a study that focused on iMRI technology in pediatric neurosurgery published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers found that iMRI was most helpful for small tumors with poor differentiation from surrounding brain tissue and large tumors with surrounding edema (swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in your body's tissues). One of the hospitals that uses iMRI technology in pediatric neurosurgery is Nicklaus Children`s Hospital in Miami. You can get more information about them by following this link:   Source:  (

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at