The human brain is incredible. The brain is constantly working to enable us to sense, process, think, react, choose, remember, move, and dream. All that the brain requires is sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet for excellent brain power.

 “The brain is tied tightly to functional capacity,” said Dr. Jotham Manwaring, a neurosurgeon at the Southern Utah Neurosciences Institute. “Specific areas of the brain control specific functions such as sight, coordination, hormone regulation, and breathing. Some areas of the brain are more valuable, as they control basic functions such as speech, motor function, and vision. These areas are called eloquent areas.”

Even when injured, the brain is so adaptable that minor damage may cause only subtle problems. The brain’s ability to reorganize and change is called neuroplasticity. Often the extent to which the brain can change depends on what area of the brain is injured or damaged.

More: Accomplish wellness goals with help of LiVe Well Center: Kevin Weston

“There are lots of ways the brain can become injured,” Manwaring said. “Despite the protection of the skull, the brain can be injured or damaged by infection, stroke, trauma, or tumor. Tumors cause injury by destroying brain cells, or distress through swelling. When these types of injuries occur near eloquent areas or the brain, it can be dangerous to operate.”

Manwaring explained that there are several types of brain tumors. Meningioma is a tumor that forms in the membranes covering the brain. These tumors can push on the brain, causing injury symptoms, even though they are not growing in the brain. When meningioma tumors are removed, symptoms will go away.

“Intrinsic tumors inside the brain can be benign or malignant (cancerous),” said Manwaring. “In most pediatric cases, tumors are benign and don’t spread and cause damage. A glioblastoma, or GBM, however, is a grade four, highly invasive malignant tumor that comes from the brain itself.”

Glioblastomas are the most common type of malignant brain tumor in adults. They are fast growing and aggressive. GBMs destroy normal brain tissue and brain function is lost resulting in injury and damage to the brain. Both the tumor and treatment may lead to brain damage.

More: Mark Evans and Cindy Richardson on the New Diagnostic and Treatment Center

“The more of the tumor that is resected, the better the outcomes,” said Manwaring. “Maximal safe resection near eloquent areas of the brain is the goal. Tumors in the brain do not look different from healthy brain tissue, tumors are identified with MRI scans before surgery.”

Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center, through community support, recently installed an intraoperative MRI (iMRI) machine that will be invaluable to brain tumor patients. Dixie Regional Medical Center is very excited to have iMRI as these machines are usually found only in academic or major medical centers. iMRI allows surgeons to create real-time MRI images during surgery.

“When removing brain tumors, tissue collapses and the before surgery images are not valid anymore,” said Manwaring. “Having new data and images during surgery allows us to be more accurate. Accuracy is important because one or two millimeters can profoundly affect someone’s life.”

Surgically removing brain tumors is usually the first course of treatment. Using iMRI technology to resect GBM results in a 90% resection rate. Without iMRI, a 60% resection rate is expected. By removing as many cancerous cells as possible, further brain injury is limited and maximum function is retained.

“Having iMRI technology allows us to provide up to date care for tumor patients,” said Manwaring. “This technology adds value for all patients throughout the region. The entire neurosciences and OR staff are excited to have this technology and we are grateful for the many people and donors that have made it possible to have iMRI technology at Dixie Regional Medical Center.”

This LiVe Well column represents collaboration between healthcare professionals from the medical staffs of our not-for-profit Intermountain Healthcare hospitals and The Spectrum & Daily News.


Read or Share this story: