Brain Metastases: What to Expect During Gamma Knife Treatment

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is used to treat brain metastases. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for your upcoming procedure.

  • Your doctor will give you instructions before your procedure. It is important to follow these.
  • You will be awake during your procedure, which lasts 15-75 minutes. You can go home within a few hours of treatment.
  • You may experience fatigue, headache or nausea. These can be treated with medications. Most patients return to work within 1-2 days.
  • You will need to attend follow-up appointments with your doctor to assess your recovery and monitor for new brain metastases.

Your Brain Metastases & What to Expect

Your doctor has recommended Gamma Knife radiosurgery to treat your brain metastases. Knowing what to expect can help reduce the stress you may be feeling during the process. Learning about the procedure and the recovery process is a great way to set your mind at ease as you get closer to your appointment. The information below will give you a general idea of Gamma Knife radiosurgery for your brain metastases and what to expect along the way.

About Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

To better understand your upcoming procedure, a quick review of the technology may be helpful. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a minimally invasive procedure with no scalpels or incisions. Instead, it is an advanced form of radiation therapy that uses almost 200 individual beams of low dose radiation to target a very precise area. These beams have a combined effect that is strong enough to eliminate cancer cells without damaging adjacent tissues, leading to fewer unpleasant side effects than other radiation treatments.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery may be used alone or following surgery to treat brain metastases. Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the characteristics of your brain metastases, including the size, location and number of tumors present. Other considerations include the cancer of origin and whether you are undergoing active treatment for that site. Some patients will only need a single session of Gamma Knife radiosurgery, although others will require up to five treatments.

Before Your Procedure

Before your procedure, you will have appointments with your doctor to discuss your treatment plan. It is important to inform your doctor of all medications and supplements you are taking in case he or she needs to make modifications. Because Gamma Knife radiosurgery is minimally invasive and does not use general anesthesia, you will not need to change your food or water intake before your procedure. However, you should inform your doctor if:

  • You have any allergies
  • You have claustrophobia
  • You have any implanted medical devices

It is important to follow all recommendations your doctor makes before your procedure. This is to ensure your comfort and safety during the procedure.

The Day of Your Procedure

Your doctor will give you specific instructions for the day of your procedure. Wear comfortable clothes and eat and drink as usual to ensure you are comfortable during your appointment. You will want to arrive early so you can get checked in. You might want to bring along something to keep you occupied while waiting, such as music or a book.

During Your Procedure

The first step in your procedure is the placement of a headframe or mask, which keeps your head in exactly the right position during your treatment. Your doctor will determine beforehand which stabilization method is most appropriate for your individual case. The next step is to image the area using an MRI or CT scan. This provides your team with up-to-date information. Using the new images, your surgeon will finalize your treatment plan.

Once it is time to begin treatment, you will lay on a special table, secured in place using the headframe or custom mask. You will be awake during the entire procedure, which typically takes 15-75 minutes. You will be able to hear and speak with everyone in the room, and the treatment itself is silent. Gentle music plays in the background, helping create a comfortable treatment environment.

Recovery Following Your Procedure

Once your treatment is complete, you will be able to go home within a few hours. You may experience headache, fatigue or nausea, but these effects tend to be mild and brief. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help you be more comfortable. Most patients are able to return to normal activities, including work, within a day or two.

If you were experiencing symptoms, it is important to know that it may take a while before they resolve. Your personal doctor will be the best person to discuss your individual outcome expectations. During your recovery, you will have follow-up visits to monitor your symptom resolution. Some patients experience delayed brain swelling around six months after treatment, which can be treated with medication.

During this time, it is of vital importance that you attend all follow-up visits. This allows your doctor to monitor for new brain metastases, which are most effectively treated when caught early. He or she will develop a follow-up schedule that is most appropriate for your specific case.

Ask Questions

If you still have questions about your upcoming procedure, be sure to bring them up with your personal doctor at your next appointment. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an excellent, minimally invasive method for treating brain metastases. However, it is important you are comfortable with the process and have your questions answered before your appointment. This way, you can rest easy and focus your energy on the healing process.

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