A Gamma knife is a radiation therapy procedure that irradiates small targets in the brain and head with the highest precision. The treatment induces high doses of radiation on the target tissues while protecting the surrounding tissues.
A gamma knife surgery is a painless computer-guided surgical procedure that helps in focusing radiation on tumors and lesions in the brain and the head. This procedure is mainly used to treat the following:
- Brain tumors
- Arteriovenous malformations
- Acoustic Neuroma
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
What exactly is gamma knife surgery?
It is a radiation therapy treatment mainly used to treat all vascular malformations and other abnormalities in the brain. It involves precisely 192 beamlets of radiation focused on the target area, sparing the surrounding healthy tissues. This procedure is also called Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, Gamma Knife Radiation, or Stereotactic Radiosurgery.
The procedure of Gamma Knife Radiation
Like any other operation, this procedure involves specific steps that require the patient and the doctors to follow. The procedure involves one of the two frames – a rigid head frame or a frameless mask.
In case of a rigid head frame:
- The box-shaped head frame, made of lightweight aluminum, is placed over the patient’s head. It creates a frame of reference and holds the target aligned perfectly during the treatment.
- Once this is done, the patient receives four anesthetic injections – two on the side and two on the back of the head. At these points, the pins of the frame are used to fasten into pins. Once the face is intact, a CT or an MRI scan is performed to plan for treatment.
In the case of a frameless gamma knife:
- It is generally made of a thermoplastic mask that covers the entire face, and the mask is pinned to the table while keeping the patient’s head completely still.
Both procedures are similar except for the structure of the frame for the gamma knife procedure. Once the measurements are read, the following steps are performed:
- An IV is inserted into the patient’s arm to induce a dye for CT or MRI scan. The dye helps determine the exact location, shape, size, and other factors about the rumor or lesion. Sometimes, a small amount of sedation is also injected to help the patient relax.
- Once the scan is completed, a radio oncologist or a neurosurgeon will decide on the treatment procedures and prepare an accurate estimate of the treatment factors.
- Once these are decided, the patient will again be under the gamma knife frame, and the table is slowly moved to the radiation section. The radiation procedure is performed depending on the size and location of the tumor/lesion.
Risk of Gamma knife surgery
- Brain swelling
- Nausea or vomiting
- Numbness in the scalp
- Hair loss if the hair follicles are irradiated
- Brain hemorrhage
Benefits of gamma knife surgery
- No incision or local anesthesia
- Target infected spots which are difficult to reach by traditional surgical methods
- Targets multiple tutors at once
- Avoids surgical complications
- Painless and no post-surgical discomfort