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What Is Gamma Knife?

A type of radiosurgery (radiation therapy) machine that acts by focusing low-dosage gamma radiation from many sources on a precise target. Areas adjacent to the target receive only slight doses of radiation, while the target gets the full intensity.

The gamma knife may be used to treat brain tumors, metastatic tumors in the brain (from sites such as the breast, lung, and skin), vascular malformations of the brain, acoustic neuromas (a tumor of the hearing nerve); meningiomas (tumors on the protective layers of the brain); trigeminal neuralgia causing severe facial pain; and temporal lobe epilepsy.

Headframe application

Patients are fitted for a lightweight frame which holds the head still during the procedure. A local anesthetic is injected in the four areas where the frame is attached to the head with mounting pins. Patients feel slight pressure during the headframe application, but this sensation usually goes away when the headframe is in place. Patients are able to move their heads after the headframe is applied.

Imaging to pinpoint the target

This may include CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and cerebral angiography. Patients may have had these studies performed before, but they must be repeated with the headframe in place to precisely map the area to be treated.


when the radiation plan is ready, patients lie on the Gamma KnifeT couch and are positioned into a guiding device that holds their heads securely in the Gamma KnifeT helmet.

After patients are in position, the staff goes into an adjoining room to monitor the procedure with video cameras and an intercom system. Patients can talk to the physicians and nurses during the procedure. The number of minutes that each radiation dose lasts is determined during dose planning. The procedure usually includes multiple doses that are delivered one after the other, all on the same day.

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Benefits of the Gamma Knife

The benefits of the Gamma Knife impact all concerned; physicians, patients, hospitals and society as a whole. These benefits are derived from its unique non-invasive nature, minimal hospitalization requirements, affordable cost and impressive long-term results.

Reduced Health Risk

Gamma Knife radiosurgery requires no incision, thereby eliminating the risk of infection associated with open craniotomy. Other risks that are eliminated include potential damage to healthy tissue and adverse reaction to general anesthesia. The Gamma Knife design and advance treatment planning software ensure that only abnormal tissue is treated, minimizing injury to the surrounding healthy brain tissue.

Overnight Hospitalization

Conventional neurosurgery requires hospitalization and convalescence, rehabilitation and restrictions on physical activity are often necessary. Radiosurgery patients are seldom hospitalized and can resume regular activities within one to two days.

No Hair Loss or Scarring

Gamma Knife radiosurgery treatment is specifically designed to protect the patient from diffuse exposure to radiation, avoiding disfigurement and scarring problems associated with neurosurgery.

Reduced Cost

Radiosurgery provides a cost savings of an estimated 20 to 50 percent when compared to conventional surgery.

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