WINSTON-SALEM – Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center recently opened the state’s first and only Magnetoencephalography (MEG) Imaging Center offering patients more accurate diagnoses for diseases and disorders of the brain. The MEG unit at Wake Forest Baptist is the first in North Carolina and surrounding states and is one of only 18 clinical sites in the country to use this new diagnostic tool. MEG non-invasively measures minute magnetic brain activity and provides information about the location of normal and abnormal brain functions.
“This technology will allow us to monitor the specific regions within the brain that are involved in speaking, talking, hearing, etc,” said Cormac O’Donovan, M.D., medical director of the MEG and electroencephalography (EEG) laboratories. “This technology keeps us among the top neuroscience centers in the country and represents a totally new approach for both patient diagnosis and research.”
This technology is considered the gold standard of care among imaging techniques and gives a more accurate read of brain activity than other diagnostic tools currently available. In the past, physicians and surgeons have used EEGs to determine brain activity. EEG’s measure electrical impulses in the brain, however, the images are often distorted by the skull, skin, scalp or brain. MEG technology measures the electromagnetic fields around regions in the brain and provides clear precise images with a reduced margin of error.
“MEG provides a more precise localization and timing of brain activity,” O’Donovan said. “When a neurosurgeon begins to plan his surgical strategy for a patient, it is critical to know what areas need to be left intact and what areas of the brain have decreased function. MEG gives us the most accurate snapshot of a patient’s brain activity and helps us to plan a successful treatment strategy.”
The MEG unit is housed in a magnetically-shielded room. Patients are asked to sit in a chair or lie perfectly still and place their head inside a sensory helmet. During the test, a patient may be asked to participate in a variety of tasks, such as listening to a series of tones or watching a screen, while brain activity is recorded using 275 sensors located within the helmet. By identifying the precise locations within the brain that are responsible for the senses, language, motor function and other vital processes, doctors can ensure preservation of these functions by avoiding these areas during surgery. For patients suffering from epilepsy, MEG also helps the physician locate the site within the brain where epileptic seizures begin, making curative surgery possible for individuals who have not responded to medication.
The MEG system will complement existing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission tomography (SPECT) and Gamma Knife radiosurgery capabilities at Wake Forest Baptist. It can be helpful when planning surgical and treatment strategies for brain tumor patients, epilepsy patients, and patients with other neurological diseases and disorders.
Additionally, MEG technology offers a new way to measure complex brain disorders and may pave the way for improved treatment options for patients suffering from dyslexia, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
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About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,187 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.