patient discussing gamma knife surgery options

For many conditions, you have more than one treatment option to relieve your symptoms. It’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of each option with your doctor to determine which is best for you. Gamma Knife® radiosurgery appeals to people seeking a short duration of treatment and a less-invasive procedure, as well as anyone who may not be a candidate for traditional surgery.

Duration of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Treatment

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is typically a one-time procedure, where many weak beams of radiation meet to concentrate radiation on the tumor or lesion. However, the results are not immediate; they develop over a period of months as the cells die and are unable to replicate. Because it is non-invasive and painless, patients are able to return to their normal activities within a day or two. Unlike Gamma Knife radiosurgery, traditional radiation therapy takes place over multiple sessions that can span weeks or months.

Invasive vs. Noninvasive Treatment Options

Traditional surgery requires:

  • General anesthesia
  • An incision
  • Removal of the tumor
  • Closure of the surgical site

The risk of infection, pain, and complications from anesthesia are always present with traditional surgery. Recovery time depends on the type of surgery. In traditional surgery, the tumor or problem is removed, allowing for more immediate results. However, some people are not able to have surgery because of their age or health issues that make it too risky for them.

Patients undergoing Gamma Knife radiosurgery receive only local anesthetic. There are no incisions and few risks. The patient is awake throughout the procedure and does not experience any pain, though there is a possibility of developing a headache following the procedure. Because the procedure is non-invasive and has few side effects, patients typically resume normal activities quickly. The results of Gamma Knife radiosurgery occur over time, rather than immediately, as with traditional surgery.

Area of Treatment

Traditional surgery and other types of stereotactic radiosurgery can be performed anywhere on the body. The Gamma Knife is designed specifically to treat problems in the brain, although new Gamma Knife technology may soon allow for additional targets within the body.

As with all medical procedures, you should discuss the risks and benefits with your physician. You may call us at the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery at UPMC at 1-877-986-9862 to ask questions, or to schedule an appointment. Learn more about the conditions we treat with Gamma Knife technology.