Gamma knife treatment, also known as a Leksell Gamma Knife procedure is a type of radiation therapy used to treat brain tumors. The gamma knife
Gamma knife treatment, also known as a Leksell Gamma Knife procedure is a type of radiation therapy used to treat brain tumors. The gamma knife surgery system is based on a high-intensity radiation stemming from 201 cobalt-based sources. The system was developed in the late 60s and since then it has been improved considerably, making it a very reliable treatment option for patients suffering from brain tumors. The cobalt is placed in a circular array, capable of sending radiation beams to any part of the patient’s brain.
The gamma knife system was specifically designed to treat cancer, as well as other diseases of the neck, head or brain. Gamma knife surgery can kill cancer cells, effectively shrinking tumors while at the same time avoiding any damage to surrounding healthy tissue in the patient’s brain. The gamma radiation beams can converge into one spot or several, so only one session is required for the procedure to be effective. Gamma knife surgery is mainly used to treat malignant or benign tumors in the brain but it can also be performed to treat other health problems such as vascular malformations or Parkinson’s disease.
Gamma knife surgery advantages include:
● It is a painless, incision-free radiosurgery system
● It can treat one or more sites during one session
● The procedure does not require overnight hospital stay
● It is a great way to treat inaccessible tumors within the brain
● Patients can return to normal activities in less than 24 hours
● The system can be safely used again if results are not satisfactory after one treatment session
Over 600.000 patients from all around the world underwent gamma knife surgery and surveys report excellent results following this procedure.
Gamma knife surgery is recommended for patients suffering from the following conditions:
● Trigeminal neuralgia
● Pineal region tumors
● Skull base tumors
● Pituitary adenomas
● Acoustic neuromas
● Small or medium-volume intracranial arteriovenous malformations
● Metastatic tumors
Gamma knife surgery is not recommended for the following groups of patients:
● Patients with a lesion or tumor bigger than 4 cm in diameter
● Patients suffering from a tumor with an edge that is less than 3 mm away from the optic chiasm
A stereotactic frame is first fitted onto the patient's head. The frame is attached through 4 titanium pins to the patient’s head – the pins usually penetrate around 2 mm. Local anesthesia may be administered during this point. If the patient is very young or anxious, general anesthesia may be used as well. MRIs and CT scans are then performed in order to set up a treatment plan.
The stereotactic frame is needed in order to keep the patient’s head still during gamma knife surgery. The patient will need to sit on a treatment table, with his head under the gamma knife system. The oncologist and neurosurgeon will then begin administering gamma knife radiation into the patient’s tumor, with a 0.1 mm precision, ensuring that the patient’s healthy tissue is not affected. Once the necessary dose of gamma knife radiation is administered, the stereoscopic frame is removed and the patient may resume normal activities.
Overnight stay is not required
This procedure requires no recovery period – patients may return to normal activities on the same day after the treatment is over.
Gamma knife radiosurgery complications can include edema and damage to surrounding brain tissue. Complications are most likely to occur at least 6 months after the gamma knife surgery is performed. Most complications are easily treatable with proper medical care. Very rare complications can include visual loss and hearing loss if the tumor is located close to the patient’s eyes or ears. Common complications include local hair loss.
Gamma knife radiosurgery side effects are quite rare but patients can experience some degree of discomfort, nausea, and headaches after the treatment. Some patients may also experience pain when the stereotactic frame is fitted.
The average gamma knife surgery success rate is between 70 and 90%, depending on the location of the tumor or lesion and its size.
Patients will be required to perform follow-up tests in a few months after the gamma knife radiosurgery.