The Gamma Knife is a safe, non-invasive device for treating deep–seated brain tumors and Arteriovenous Malformations (AVM's). With this emerging technology, many conditions, including those that were once considered inoperable, can now be treated without the need for an incision and with little or no pain.
The Gamma Knife is not a knife as its name implies. It is a highly sophisticated system that delivers up to 201 beams of gamma radiation, with pinpoint accuracy, to an abnormality within the brain. When concentrated, the rays provide enough radiation to treat the diseased area effectively. Yet the low intensity of each single beam ensures the safety of the surrounding healthy brain tissue.
On the day of treatment, the patient is fitted into a metal frame, called a stereotactic headframe. Open on all sides, it allows physicians to precisely target the abnormality throughout the several procedures. First patient’s brain is screened with images taken with by MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), a CT scan or angiogram. This determines the size and position of the tumor or AVM.
Once the imaging studies are completed, physicians use a computer program to help plan the course of treatment.
The target area of the brain and the appropriate radiation dosage are quickly established. Now ready for the Gamma Knife, the patient lies down. The head frame is now positioned inside a large metal helmet, called a collimator. Next, the patient slides into the Gamma Knife's sphere, which contains the source of radiation. The collimator then directs radiation to the pre-determined points in the patient's brain.
Treatment usually consists of a series of exposures, each lasting approximately 10 minutes. Patients experience little or no discomfort, and most are able to to home the day of the procedure.
Gamma Knife Benefits
With the Gamma Knife, post-treatment complications are greatly reduced when compared to open surgery (or other types of radiation?). Further, areas of the brain for which other therapies are ineffective can be successfully treated. The Gamma Knife's precision and safety make it a highly appropriate choice for both pediatric and adult patients.
The range of diseases effectively treated by the Gamma Knife includes:
- Vascular lesions such as arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)
- Acoustic neuroma
- Pituitary Tumors
- Pineal Tumors
- Glial and astrocytic tumors
- Skull base tumors
- Other benign and malignant tumors
- Trigeminal neuralgia
The use of the Gamma Knife continues to expand, as a result of ongoing research and development.
Additional information from our Columbia Neurosurgeons regarding Gamma Knife Radiosurgery click here.