Gamma Knife treatment

4th October 2016  

What exactly is gamma knife treatment?

Gamma knife treatment is an effective alternative to surgery for those suffering with intracranial conditions such as malignant, benign tumours, vascular malformations, functional disorders or trigeminal neuralgia. There are less than 10 centres in the UK which offer this type of treatment, and is in some cases it’s not always available on the NHS.

A short powerful treatment for neurological conditions

It is also known as stereotactic radio-surgery and consists of a powerful and focused source of radiation targeted at one specific area of the body, usually the brain. What’s great about this type of treatment is its accuracy and its ability to destroy only the tumour and not the surrounding tissue. As surgery can be such a traumatic procedure, resulting in possibly weeks of recuperation, gamma knife treatment offers a quick path to recovery.

Patients attend hospital for a one-hour session and most will have nothing more than a headache following the treatment.

No necessity for surgery or anaesthesia

What’s great about gamma knife treatment is that it eliminates the need for surgery, and as no incision is necessary to expose the brain, it helps avoid the very possibility of side effects and complications which surgery carries.

General anaesthesia also carries with it a certain degree of risk and this is avoided when gamma knife treatment is carried out in its place.

Excellent alternative to surgery especially for those not suitable for surgery

Once the treatment is complete, most of the lesions will become smaller and dissolve. It has been reported that gamma knife treatment can be used as an alternative to neurosurgery for those with a tumour and is especially helpful for patients who are simply not suitable for a standard surgical procedure, this could be due to age or illness.

gamma knife radiosurgery

Gamma knife treatment has a high rate of success

The gamma knife treatment consists of special pins which are placed near the skull under local anaesthetic. The gamma knife is a semi-circular helmet containing 200 sources of radioactive cobalt.

The patient’s head is pinned inside the helmet and each beam will cause no harm to the surrounding tissue, hitting its target spot on. Gamma knife treatment is extremely successful with an over 90% success rate.

Gamma knife treatment was developed back in the late 60s, although it’s not widely known or used as a cancer treatment for brain tumours. This is a shame, as it’s such a successful and accurate treatment.

To summarise the advantages of gamma knife treatment:

  • It’s designed to exclusively treat brain disorders e.g. intracranial tumours, vascular malformations and functional disorders.
  • There’s a high dose of radiation which targets one specific area, while leaving the surrounding tissue completely unharmed.
  • The cost of using gamma knife treatment as opposed to neurosurgery is at least up to 30% cheaper.
  • There is very little in the way of discomfort.
  • Because there’s no surgical incision and exposure of the brain, the risk of infection and other complications is eliminated.
  • Hospital time is relatively short – an overnight stay or even an outpatient procedure. Patients are able to resume their normal activities.

Gamma knife treatment – what happens?

When you go for gamma knife treatment you will be asked to lie on a couch, and a frame attached to your head will be either positioned into a helmet, or a docking device on the actual couch. This helps to keep your head perfectly still while you’re having the treatment.

Following this, and once your head is in position, the radiographers looking after your treatment will leave the room, although you will be able to still speak to them because there will be cameras specifically positioned so they can both see and hear you.

gamma knife procedure

Radioactive exposure to a targeted area of the brain

You will automatically be moved into the gamma knife unit and there’ll be a series of radiation exposure in different places. You will be physically moved into a new position for each stage of your treatment.

Each shot of radiation will only take a few minutes and the whole procedure is around an hour. Your head frame, or helmet will be removed once the treatment is over and you may be left with a slight headache. The area sometimes still feels sensitive for a few days after the treatment.

If you feel you’d like to know more about gamma knife treatment, and you’d like to speak to someone with specialist knowledge, then get in touch with us and one of our professional team members will be happy to get back to you.