Understanding Gamma Knife Procedures
A Gamma Knife procedure is an alternative to the traditional approach to brain surgery. It’s performed with beams of radiation that can be precisely targeted at a tumor or area that needs to be treated. Gamma Knife procedures, which can be used in a wide range of neurological procedures involving the brain, often have a minimal effect on healthy surrounding tissues, resulting in fewer complications and risks.
How Does the Gamma Knife Work?
The Gamma Knife delivers a single high dose of radiation to the affected area with an accuracy of less than a tenth of a milliliter, or about the thickness of a piece of paper. It can be targeted to areas that are often difficult to reach with traditional procedures.
Targeting Brain Metastases
One of the most promising uses of the Gamma Knife is to treat brain metastases. Procedures for this condition target cancerous cells that have spread from primary tumors located in other organs. Anywhere from 25 to nearly 50 percent of all cancers may involve brain metastases. The extreme precision of the Gamma Knife allows these cells to be carefully treated.
Meningiomas are growths on membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Gamma Knife procedures for meningiomas focus on delivering a very accurate dose of radiation to the tumor without damaging nearby tissues affecting other essential movements and functions. The Gamma Knife may also be used to treat:
- Facial nerve pain
- Acoustic neuromas (non-cancerous growths affecting a specific cranial nerve)
- Gliomas tumors (growths originating in the brain or spine)
- Arteriovenous malformations (abnormal blood vessels)
What’s Involved With Gamma Knife Procedures?
Most Gamma Knife procedures require light sedation and local anesthesia. A head frame is secured to the patient’s head to prevent movement during the procedure. A CT or MRI scan is used to locate the area that needs to be treated. A computer is used to prepare a treatment plan based on the data provided during the imaging. The patient is then placed in a special machine and treatment, which can last from 20 minutes to a few hours, begins.
Gamma Knife procedures present new options to patients with complex or difficult-to-treat neurological conditions. Many times, these procedures are a viable and reliable alternative to traditional surgery or whole radiation. Recovery, while typically a shorter process, will vary depending on a patient’s overall health and the condition being treated. Patients often go home the same day, although some may be observed overnight.