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Holy Spirit Gamma Knife


Gamma Knife



What is Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?

Gamma Knife radiosurgery, also called stereotactic radiosurgery, is a very precise form of therapeutic radiology. Even though it is called surgery, a Gamma Knife procedure does not involve actual surgery, nor is the Gamma Knife really a knife at all. It uses beams of highly-focused gamma rays to treat small- to medium-size lesions, usually in the brain. Many beams of gamma radiation join to focus on the lesion under treatment, providing a very intense dose of radiation without a surgical incision or opening.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is called "surgery" because a result similar to an actual surgical procedure is created by a one-session radiation therapy treatment. The beams of radiation are very precisely focused to reach the tumor, lesion, or other area being treated with minimal effect on surrounding healthy tissue.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is most often used to treat tumors and other lesions in the brain. It is also used to treat certain neurological conditions, such as trigeminal neuralgia (a condition in which pressure on the trigeminal nerve causes spasms of extreme facial pain) and acoustic neuroma (a noncancerous tumor in the brain that affects the nerves that control hearing).

Gamma Knife radiosurgery may be used in situations where the brain lesion cannot be reached by conventional surgical techniques. It may also be used in persons whose condition is such that they might not be able to tolerate a surgical procedure, such as craniotomy, to treat their condition.

Because the therapeutic effects of a Gamma Knife procedure occur rather slowly over time, it is not used for persons whose condition requires more immediate therapy.


Reasons you may consider Gamma Knife

Gamma Knife radiosurgery may be used to treat certain conditions of the brain in particular instances. Brain conditions that may be treated with a Gamma Knife procedure include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • brain tumors
  • brain cancer
  • arteriovenous malformations, or AVM (a type of blood vessel defect)
  • trigeminal neuralgia
  • acoustic neuroma

Gamma Knife radiosurgery has shown some promise for treating conditions such as tremor and rigidity related to Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, and chronic pain.

There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend Gamma Knife radiosurgery.


Risks of the Procedure

If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects.

Other risks may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • swelling of the brain
  • headache
  • nausea
  • numbness

Some risks and side effects may be related to the location and size of the area being treated by the Gamma Knife procedure. These may include:

  • hair loss near treated area (generally temporary)
  • seizures
  • weakness
  • loss of balance
  • vision problems

There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.





The treatment consists of four steps:

1. Attaching the frame VIDEO

2. Imaging: CT, MRI or Angiography

3. Treatment planning

4. Treatment

Before the treatment

Before treatment your doctor will inform you about the entire procedure. Gamma Knife Surgery does not require cutting or shaving of your hair. The next step is the application of the head frame.

1. The head frame

A key component in Gamma Knife Surgery is the stereotactic head frame. The frame allows the doctor to accurately pinpoint the target to the be treated in your brain. This lightweight frame, which is attached to your head with four screws, ensures that the radiation beams can be directed with precision to the target. The frame also preventsyour head from moving during imaging and treatment procedures. Local anaesthetic is applied where the screws are to be attached.



2. Imaging

After the head frame is in place, it is time for imaging to be done; such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) or angiography. Imaging is required to determine the exact size, shape and position of the target in the brain. During imaging, a coordinate box is placed on the head frame to provide reference points on the images for the treatment plan. After imaging, the coordinate box is removed.




 3. Treatment planning

Once your images have been taken, you can rest while your physician develops a very precise and accurate treatment plan. No two treatment plans are alike; every patient’s plan is individually designed to address the specific medical condition. The doctor, very often together with another specialist in the team, makes the plan in a specially designed computer and calculates how the treatment should be performed. This usually takes a couple of hours.




4. The treatment

Once your treatment plan is completed, the actual treatment can start. You will lay down on the treatment couch and the head frame will be attached to the helmet. You are awake during the procedure and will be able to communicate with your doctor or nurse through an audio and video connection. When the treatment begins, the couch will move into the dome section of the unit. The treatment is silent and totally painless. Often you will be able to listen to music during the treatment. The team will be monitoring the procedure at all times. The treatment will last a few minutes to more than an hour, depending on the size and shape of the target.


After the treatment

When your treatment is complete, the head frame will be removed. If you had an angiogram, you might have to lay quietly for several more hours.  Some patients experience a mild headache or minor swelling where the head frame was attached, but most report no problems. Your doctor will tell you whether or not he wants you to stay overnight for observation or if you can go home immediately. Either way, you should be able to return to your normal routines in another day or so.


The effects of your treatment will occur over time. Radiation treatments are designed to stop the growth of tumors or lesions, which means that the effect will be seen over a period of weeks or months. Your doctor will stay in contact with you to assess your progress, which may include follow-up MRI, CT or angiography images.





 The Holy Spirit Gamma Knife @ Oakwood Cancer Center Team of Professionals




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