Gamma Knife Treatment is a safe, effective radiation therapy to shrink and prevent the growth of tumors or other lesions. It uses high-energy gamma rays to precisely target cancerous and noncancerous brain and spinal cord lesions, avoiding the normal surrounding healthy tissue.
Your doctor will review your condition and determine whether or not you are a good candidate for Gamma Knife treatment. If you are, you will be scheduled for an appointment with a neurosurgeon and a radiation oncologist. Each physician will take your medical history, perform a physical exam and obtain your consent to treat you with the Gamma Knife.
The procedure of Gamma Knife Treatment
The Gamma Knife procedure involves the attachment of a lightweight frame to your head and using local anesthesia. The frame is secured to your head at four points with pins. The anesthesia reduces any discomfort.
Building treatment plan
Following the anesthesia, you will undergo imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or angiography to help the doctors locate your lesion and plan the radiosurgical procedure. The data from these studies are transferred to a computer program that will guide the entire Gamma Knife treatment.
Process of treatment
Once your treatment plan is completed, you will lie down on the treatment table. A special helmet called a collimator helmet may be fitted over your head. It has 201 holes that allow the beams of radiation to pass through it in a precise pattern determined by the computer.
After the helmet is in place, the treatment table will slide into the Gamma Knife unit. The machine will then start producing radiation beams targeting your brain lesion.
You will remain awake during the procedure and be able to communicate with the Gamma Knife team through an audio and video connection. Your care team will always monitor your vital signs and provide you with pain and sedative medications as needed.
Your treatment will last a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the size and location of your brain tumor or other lesions. Most patients return home after the procedure. Some patients stay in the hospital for observation overnight, but this is rare.
Follow up after the treatment
Follow-up is essential after Gamma Knife radiosurgery because the effects of treatment occur over weeks or months. This means you must regularly see your healthcare provider for follow-up imaging.
For some patients, side effects are mild and transient. These include a headache, numbness in the scalp, or other minor swellings around the pin sites. The numbness and swelling will gradually disappear after a few weeks.
Some patients notice temporary numbness or tingling of the scalp after Gamma Knife treatment, but this is a normal and transient sensation that will disappear in a few days. The doctor will also prescribe medication for nausea or head pain if necessary.
The recovery time after Gamma Knife treatment is minimal compared to surgery or other radiosurgery. This is because the beams of radiation are tightly focused on your lesion, which causes little or no damage to the surrounding tissue.