The Gamma Knife has become one of the primary alternatives for conventional brain surgery and has opened new avenues of treatment for those suffering from movement disorders such as essential tremor and Parkinson's disease. It is also used to treat a severe facial pain condition known as trigeminal neuralgia.
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Gamma Knife technology allows doctors to deliver lifesaving radiation to areas of the brain that cannot be operated on. Without making a single cut, the Gamma Knife can treat malignant or benign brain tumors, vascular malformations and other functional disorders in the brain that doctors once would have considered inaccessible.
What is Gamma Knife?
Known as Gamma Knife radiosurgery, the Gamma Knife is actually not a knife at all, but a sophisticated instrument that pinpoints and delivers precise beams of radiation to brain tumors and other brain abnormalities. By precisely focusing 190 intersecting radiation beams on the targeted brain abnormalities, the Gamma Knife destroys the abnormalities without harming normal brain tissue or adjacent nerves and blood vessels.
Since there is no surgical incision to expose the inside of the brain, the risk of surgical complications is reduced and the side effects and dangers of general anesthesia are eliminated. The treatment is virtually painless and it does not require general anesthesia. In addition, because it is non-invasive, there is no scarring or disfigurement and little risk of infection.
How does Gamma Knife work?
Gamma Knife radiation offers the precision of surgery without the usual risks of surgery. Its precision allows the adjacent tissue to remain relatively unaffected, while delivering intense doses of radiation to the critical points. Whether a patient has one or multiple tumors in the brain, the Gamma Knife replaces the need for the combination of conventional brain surgery and radiation treatment.
Gamma Knife treatment
Treatment can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as two hours, depending on several factors, such as the number of times you are repositioned and the dose of radiation used. Recovery time is brief, and there are no immediate side effects and virtually no post-procedure discomfort. You will most likely be treated in one session and go home the same day to return to your normal routine.
Gamma Knife surgery typically takes place in the morning. You will receive a type of sedation, called light sedation, as well as local anesthesia, which allow you to remain awake during the procedure, but feel no pain. After physicians attach a metal halo device (called a stereotactic frame) to your skull and you receive a CT scan or MRI, your neurosurgeon, physicist and radiation oncologist will develop your treatment plan.
Once treatment has been finalized, you will be placed on the Gamma Knife table—often referred to the couch—and under a helmet that shields your head from unwanted radiation. If necessary, beam sizes can be adjusted by using different helmets with holes of various sizes. Doctors and nurses monitor you from an adjoining room, using video cameras and an intercom system.
You will be asked to see your doctor for a checkup about a month after the procedure. Depending upon your diagnosis, you may need a follow-up MRI or CT scan after the radiosurgery.
Medicine has essentially been the go-to method of treating disorders such as essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, trigeminal neuralgia and other disorders of the brain. Over time, medicinal treatments for these brain disorders have lost their effectiveness and created unfavorable side effects. As a result, the Gamma Knife radiosurgery offers a noninvasive solution with a low complication risk for treating such disorders. Find out more about these disorders and how the Gamma Knife can treat functional brain disorders.
Our multidisciplinary approach to Gamma Knife treatment is a key component to your care. Working closely together, our team assures the highest level of professional expertise, personal care and attention before, during and after treatment. Gamma Knife surgery requires the expertise of several specialists, including a physicist, a neurosurgeon, a radiation oncologist, an anesthesiologist (for children and patients with special problems) and a specially trained registered nurse.
Pictured from left are Victor Schweitzer, M.D., Eugene Ahn, M.D., Ronald Young, M.D., Jim Chan, M.D., Brian Copcutt, Ph.D., Skip Jacques, M.D., Robert Hesselgesser, M.D., John Lee, M.D., Jesse Lee, Ph.D., and Paul Miller, M.D.
- James Chan, M.D.
- Kofi Kessey, M.D.
- John Lee, M.D.
- Kapil Moza, M.D.
- Anthony A. Virella, M.D.
- Ronald F. Young, M.D.
- Jesse Lee, Ph.D.
- John Sgroi, M.S.
Together, this team of medical experts, along with specially trained registered nurses, provides the array of knowledge and perspectives that ensures evaluations are thorough and that each treatment plan is tailored to the patient’s unique medical needs. This exceptional expertise, coupled with the Gamma Knife’s advanced technology, offers the opportunity for successful treatment so that you can return to your normal activities as soon as possible.