Whether your doctor has recently recommended Gamma Knife radiosurgery for your brain tumor or you already have your procedure scheduled in northern NJ, it can be helpful to understand what to expect during your recovery. Learning more about your condition and treatment is an excellent way to enhance your understanding of your procedure, which can help set your mind at ease throughout the entire process.
The following information will explain what to expect during your Gamma Knife radiosurgery recovery and how it compares to traditional brain tumor surgery recovery. Though your recovery will be an individual process, having a general understanding of what most patients will experience can help you continue the conversation with your doctor at your next visit.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery: The Basics
Though it may sound like it involves surgery, Gamma Knife radiosurgery has nothing to do with scalpels or incisions. Instead, it is a specialized form of radiation therapy that uses advanced technology to deliver highly focused treatment to a small area. This Gamma Knife procedure allows your doctor to treat just your brain tumor without impacting healthy surrounding tissues, resulting in fewer of the unpleasant side effects often associated with other forms of radiation therapy.
Using nearly 200 individual beams of low-dose radiation, your doctor will target your brain tumor using a combined effect to deliver a large effective dose in one session. Treatment typically lasts from 15-60 minutes, and many patients only require a single Gamma Knife procedure. However, depending on your brain tumor’s size, location and type, you may be scheduled for up to five treatments.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery can be a great treatment option for patients in the New Jersey area diagnosed with many types of brain tumors, including:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Brain metastases
- Pineal tumors
- Pituitary tumors
- Skull base tumors
- Vestibular schwannoma
Brain Tumor Recovery Following a Gamma Knife Procedure
One of the great things about Gamma Knife radiation is that it takes place in an outpatient setting and you are awake the entire time. That means you can communicate with your doctor throughout the procedure, there is no grogginess following anesthesia, and you can return home within a few hours of the end of your treatment.
The First Few Days
Immediately following your treatment, you may have a slight headache and/or nausea, which typically passes within the first couple of days and can be alleviated with medication, if necessary. You may also feel a little more tired than usual. However, most patients can return to all regular activities, including work, within a day or two. Recall that traditional brain tumor surgery typically requires a period of 4-8 weeks with activity restrictions — far longer than 1-2 days.
Some patients will have a little discomfort on the scalp at the headframe sites, such as itching or redness. However, this will typically resolve on its own, only lasting 1-2 days. You may also have temporary redness and discomfort at the treatment site, which again is mild and transient.
The First Few Weeks
During this period, you may have a follow-up visit with your doctor to assess your symptoms, take further imaging and determine whether or not you require any additional treatment. However, note that you won’t need to have any stitches or sutures removed, nor will you be dealing with excessive pain and infection because your procedure was practically noninvasive.
You may already be experiencing relief from symptoms by this point. In fact, some patients will notice improvements immediately following a Gamma Knife procedure. However, it is important to keep in mind that your brain tumor recovery will depend on the nature of your precise condition, including personal health factors. Your doctor will be the best person to give you an expected outlook regarding the resolution of any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Six Months Later
Six months after your Gamma Knife radiosurgery, you will likely be finished with all scheduled treatments and be following a monitoring schedule developed by your doctor. You may need periodic imaging and other exams, depending on your diagnosis. Around this time, some patients may experience delayed brain swelling, a mild condition that means your tumor is shrinking. This condition will typically resolve on its own or your doctor will prescribe medication. There are usually no lasting ill effects, and the swelling responds well to the medicine.
For Comparison: Brain Tumor Recovery Following Surgery
There is a significant difference in recovery between traditional surgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Generally speaking, all brain tumor surgeries will occur in a hospital setting while the patient is asleep. After the procedure, a patient will typically spend 3-5 days recovering in the hospital before being released to return home.
Brain tumor recovery following traditional surgery can be relatively lengthy, including activity and work restrictions ranging from 4-8 weeks. During this time, patients may require medications to manage pain. There will be follow-up visits to remove stitches and sutures, to monitor for infection and bleeding, and assess the resolution of symptoms.
Discuss Your Recovery Timeline With Your Doctor
Because your brain tumor recovery will depend on so many individual factors, you should continue discussing it with your doctor. They will help you understand what you can expect, including the number of treatment sessions required and the resolution of any symptoms. The better prepared you are beforehand, the more you can relax during your recovery, enjoying the peace of mind you have created for yourself.