Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
When a person is diagnosed with an abnormality of the brain, such as a tumor, he or she may feel that there are limited treatment options available. Fortunately, this is not true. Courtesy of today’s technology there are several treatment options that a doctor may recommend Gamma Knife radiosurgery is one of those options. It is a technique that was invented in 1967 by the joint efforts of Börje Larsson, a radiobiologist in Sweden, and neurosurgeon, Lars Leksell. It is most useful when it involves treating areas in the brain that cannot be reached by normal surgery without causing significant damage to the brain itself. When making a decision about treatment options, the patient and his or her family should educate themselves on what Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is, and all that it entails.
Definition of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is a form of radiation therapy that is used to treat abnormalities in the brain. These abnormalities include small to medium brain tumors, malformations, certain types of epilepsy, and other conditions, including Parkinson’s Disease. Despite its name, the procedure is non-invasive and does not involve the use of a knife. Instead, the procedure uses approximately 201 beams of gamma radiation to precisely strike abnormal tissue without harming healthy cells. The procedure uses a sophisticated computer system to target abnormalities in three dimensions. The name Gamma Knife is a metaphor for the way in which the gamma radiation reaches into the brain to attack the abnormal tissue.
- What is Gamma Knife?: A very brief explanation of what gamma knife is. It also explains situations in which it is the best treatment.
- University of Maryland Gamma Knife Center – Information for Patients: This page provides the reader with information about what the procedure is, how it works, and what can be expected. A video is also included on the page.
- Cedars-Sinai Brain Tumor Treatment: Gamma Knife: An introduction to Gamma Knife that explains what it is and what it does.
One of the most common uses of Gamma Knife is for treatment of brain tumors. The treatment works by targeting the tumor with gamma rays, stunting and eventually reversing tumor growth, causing it to shrink. The patient’s head is fitted with a stereotactic head frame, a device that serves to hold the head in a way that it is unable to move. With the head frame in place, an image of the exact location, size and shape of the tumor is taken, using either magnetic resonate imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan. The patient is then positioned on the instrument with a specialized helmet fit over the frame. Together with the head frame, the helmet serves to focus the gamma ray beams onto the targeted tumor. Holes within the helmet help to direct the machine’s gamma beams so that they strike precisely on the tumor. During the procedure, the patient remains awake and does not feel what is happening.
The entire procedure is quick, ranging from a few minutes to two hours depending on severity. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is generally an outpatient procedure, with the patient heading home on the same day. In some cases, depending on the situation, the patient may need to stay overnight. This procedure was originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it is now regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Procedure Overview: An overview of the procedure from the Columbia University Medical Center website. This page includes information such as what the surgery is, how the surgery works, risks, and what to expect during and after the procedure.
- Gamma Knife Treatment: This patient guide from the Memphis Regional Gamma Knife Center explains how the Gamma Knife is used for brain tumors and other malformations.
- Oregon Health and Science University: Gamma Knife Procedure: This page gives an overview of the gamma knife procedure. It explains how it is used to treat brain tumors and other conditions. The page also includes other useful information such as risks and what happens before the procedure.
While Gamma Knife radiosurgery is not an invasive procedure, it does employ the use of gamma radiation. As a result, there are potential risks that are involved. Most importantly, the procedure can result in harmful levels of radiation exposure. Damage could occur to healthy cells, leading to a number of complications. Pregnant women, for example, risk birth defects or miscarriages as a result of the treatment. Most of the potential risks, however, are minor and less severe than complications from traditional, surgical-oriented treatments that are used for brain tumors located deep inside the brain.
- Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Risks: The risk portion of the Mayo Clinic’s basic information on Gamma Knife radiosurgery. The page lists potential early complications and side-effects that are typically short-lived.
- Procedure Description: This procedure description page reviews the risks associated with Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. It breaks these risks down into two categories – operative site risks and general risks.
- What is Gamma Knife Surgery – Risks of the Procedure: This page is a general overview of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. It includes a detailed list of the risks and possible side-effects.
Early complications may include a headache or some pain and swelling at the scalp point the laser was focused on. A person may suffer from a seizure following the procedure, or he or she may become nauseated, but those complications are less common. Some complications may be more delayed, but it another rare occurrence. At the area of treatment, a person may lose hair, or experience swelling of the brain. Vision and hearing loss may also infrequently occur. Numbness, bouts of weakness or problems maintaining one’s balance, are also potential post-surgery complications.
- San Diego Gamma Knife Center: FAQs – Complications of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery: A review of the rarer complications of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery.
- Complications From Receiving Gamma Knife Surgery: Early, rare and delayed complications of the procedure are listed in this section of the Gamma Knife Center of the Pacific website. Readers will also find out what the advantages are.
- What are the Complications of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?: A list of the early and delayed complications of the procedure. Both sections are divided into common and rare complications.