What is a Gamma Knife?
The Gamma Knife is a safe, non-invasive, technologically advanced device used for treating a multitude of conditions. Don’t let the name deceive you, gamma knife treatment does not involve any knives. Rather, gamma radiation which provides no discomfort the patient what-so-ever.
About Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery (also known as GKRS) is a completely non-invasive treatment that is frequently used in cases of facial nerve disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia or hemifacial spasm. Often times, experience brain surgeons will recommend gamma knife radiosurgery as an alternative to brain surgery for other conditions such as acoustic neuroma, pituitary tumors, and arteriovenous malformations (AVM).
Despite its name, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery involves no scalpels or surgical instruments. It instead uses approximately 200 finely tuned beams of radiation to precisely pinpoint a tumor, lesion or other abnormality in the brain, delivering a therapeutic dose of radiation to only that spot. Sometimes, gamma knife is referred to by a more general term, “stereotactic radiosurgery”.
Because each beam does not itself contain a high dose of radiation, the procedure does not have the same harmful effects that standard radiation treatments can have on healthy surrounding brain tissue. When these beams converge, an effective level of radiation is reached, allowing you to reap the benefits of radiation therapy without consequential damage.
Using Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, an increasing number of conditions—including those that were once considered inoperable and those for which other therapies are ineffective—are often successfully treated without incisions and with little or no pain and very short recovery times.
The Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Procedure
The Gamma Knife procedure is made up of a well-defined set of steps. Unlike traditional surgery, there is not a tremendous amount of preparation time required. You are awake for the entire procedure and are kept abreast of everything that is happening from start to finish.
- The doctors will place a device known as a head frame on your head. This frame positions and immobilizes your head for the procedure. Four small pins are used to hold it securely in place but do not enter the skull. A local anesthetic will be administered at each pin location to increase your comfort level.
- Next, several MRI images will be taken and reviewed. This will allow doctors and radiology team members to determine exactly where the tumor, abnormality or other target is located so they can treat it precisely.
- You will then be placed on a specialized table where the head frame is locked into place to help keep your head and neck perfectly still. Treatment will begin and will typically take anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour. The time frame depends on the the target area that requires treatment, location of the nerve, desired end results, and overall size of the treatment region.
- Once finished, the doctors will remove the head frame. Most often, patients are able to go home within a couple of hours of headframe removal.
Good Candidates for Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Due to its noninvasive nature, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is not particularly limiting in who can or cannot withstand the procedure. It is especially helpful for those who may not be able to tolerate general anesthetic or whose tumor or lesion is inoperable using traditional surgical methods. Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is frequently performed on people with weakened immune systems, the elderly and patients who don’t respond well to anesthetic medications.
Recovering From Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Unlike traditional surgery, there are no incisions or surgical sites that must heal with Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. The points on your skin and scalp where the head frame was attached may be tender or sore for a few days. Typically, you will be sent home with a light dressing over these small wounds and given an analgesic to help with discomfort.
You may experience headaches after Gamma Knife Radiosurgery—these will begin to dissipate over the days following the procedure. After one or two days, you can expect to return to all your normal activities and need only heed restrictions that were in place prior to the procedure.
Results are gradual. Because of the nature of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, it may take weeks or months to fully experience the effects of the procedure. Your surgeon will provide you with an estimated timeline for progress.
Why Choose Neurosurgeons of New Jersey
At Neurosurgeons of New Jersey, we understand how stressful it can be to face a diagnosis that requires neurosurgical care. This is why we strive to provide you with the information and tools you need to make your health care decisions wisely. To further our mission, we have only the most highly skilled and specialized neurosurgeons and support staff, ensuring that you receive top-quality, personalized service.
Too often, you will find that a practice’s treatment plans are “one-size-fits-all,” making it difficult to address your individual neurosurgical needs. We believe that, just like you, your needs are unique and your treatment plan should be, too. All of our doctors and staff practice with the highest levels of compassion and deliver one-on-one service.
Not only do we provide excellent neurosurgical medical care, but we also have five locations throughout the tri-state area so that you will be able to find a center close to you. Why travel when you can receive top-notch consultation and surgical services close to home?