What is Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?
Gamma knife radiosurgery is a precise, noninvasive and effective procedure, treating a wide variety of conditions including benign and malignant brain tumors, trigeminal neuralgia, acoustic neuromas, tremor and vascular malformations. Contrary to its name, there is no knife, because cutting is actually not involved at any stage of gamma knife treatment. During the treatment, focused individual beams (as many as 201) of cobalt radiation are precisely delivered to well-defined targets in the brain. However, the beams are individually too weak to damage healthy tissues. They converge together to deliver a powerful treatment to one or several specific points.
Gamma Knife vs. CyberKnife
Both Gamma Knife and CyberKnife are stereotactic (SRS) treatment technologies, however, Gamma Knife is limited to treating cancerous areas above the ear and in the cervical spine whereas CyberKnife treatment is capable of treating cancer throughout the entire body. The essential difference between Gamma Knife and CyberKnife is that Gamma Knife procedure requires a large protective metal frame with screws to be put onto the patient’s head during the treatment while CyberKnife provides the patient a relatively more comfortable treatment process as the patient lies on the treatment couch and the system moves quickly around the patient to update the accurate position of the patient’s body. Both Gamma Knife and CyberKnife treatments use external radiation to kill cancerous cells and shrink tumors without damaging healthy tissues. While both CyberKnife and Gamma Knife can precisely treat cancerous and noncancerous tumors, CyberKnife has a distinctive advantage as it can treat tumors in the unstable organs that move with breathing by using real-time X-ray images of the targeted areas. Gamma Knife, on the contrary, can only treat cancers in the brain and cervical spine, where the movement has to be stabilized.
What are the Possible Complications of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?
Serious complications of Gamma Knife radiation therapy such as local loss of hair, visual loss and hearing loss (dependent on diagnosis and areas treated)are generally very rare. Some patients may experience one or some of the following side effects: A slight headache, minor swelling, mild nausea or numbness around where the metal head frame was placed. However, these common side effects are most likely to resolve over a day or two.
Is Gamma Knife Treatment Safe?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is safer than many existing procedures, being less risky without open-skull procedures and general anesthesia. As it is true of all radiation therapy procedures, correct calculation of the amount of radiation to deliver to the cancerous area is essential. Besides, a qualified medical physicist should assure that imaging and treatment planning computers and software are correct and able to operate properly. The mechanical functions of the monitoring and treating machines are tested regularly to ensure the safety of the patients and the medical staff. Also, hospitalization is not generally required, recovery time is minimal and many patients (individual patient outcomes may vary) may resume their normal pre-surgery life within a couple of days.
What is the Expected Outcome with Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?
The benefit of Gamma Knife treatment will occur over time because radiosurgery aims to stop the growth of tumors or lesions, which means that the effect of the treatment will be seen over a period of weeks and months. Besides, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is such a significantly precise and effective treatment method that it has been able to achieve tumor control in more than 90 percent of cases at the 10-year follow-up.