Gamma Knife® radiosurgery is an accurate, non-invasive way to treat many problems in the brain and head. It seems like a misleading term since it doesn’t involve a knife. Instead, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is precisely targeted radiation that affects only the tumor or other problem, not the surrounding tissues.
How Does Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Work?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery uses weak radiation that passes harmlessly through normal tissue. Only when the many beams of radiation meet are they powerful enough to affect cells. The radiation is targeted using MRI imaging, CT scans, and angiography to determine the extent of the tumor. Then a computer program maps the structure, which tells the surgeon exactly where to apply the radiation.
No knife = less invasive
If your tumors are too deep, or you can’t handle the recovery of regular brain surgery, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a better alternative. No cutting or removal of skull is required. A lightweight frame is used to anchor the head in place. Four pins are used to hold the frame in place, following local anesthesia, so there shouldn’t be pain.
What to Expect During Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Treatment
With the frame attached, the imaging done, and the treatment mapped out, the surgery is ready to begin. You lie down on a moving bed that will place your head into the Gamma Knife machine. You can’t feel the radiation, and the treatment itself typically takes an hour or less. Most people need just one Gamma Knife treatment.
Possible complications from Gamma Knife
After the treatment, the frame is removed, and the pin sites are covered. Some people have headaches, and some may temporarily lose hair. There is typically no pain, and you will be able to resume your normal activities. You will be taught how to keep the pin sites clean before you leave.
What is Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Used to Treat?
The Gamma Knife may be used to treat:
- Acoustic neuromas
- Blood vessel problems like arteriovenous malformations
- Brain tumors
- Nerve problems like trigeminal neuralgia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Pituitary tumors
Today, the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery at UPMC is the nation’s leading provider of Gamma Knife procedures, and has successfully treated more than 13,500 patients. You can schedule an appointment by calling 1-877-986-9862 or contact the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery for more information.