Answers to Your Most
Frequently Asked Questions
About Gamma Knife

Our staff has written extensively about the Gamma Knife procedure and the conditions it can treat. Search for your own question below, or browse some of our most common questions by category. If your question isn’t already answered on our website, we’ll do our best to answer it for you.

General Gamma Knife Questions

As you are educating yourself about Gamma Knife radiosurgery, you may have come across the terms “head frame” or “halo.” The idea may seem a little intimidating, but the gamma knife head frame is actually a feature of Gamma Knife radiosurgery that allows your doctors to treat an area as precise as 0.15 mm – the width of just two human hairs – while sparing healthy neighboring tissues. 

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Gamma Knife can be, and often is, repeated if a doctor determines that multiple sessions are necessary. Sometimes the area to be treated is very large or deep within other structures, and it will take more than a single session to adequately treat the area. Your doctor will inform you during the treatment planning process approximately how many Gamma Knife treatments you can expect to undergo, although the final determination will depend on exactly how your condition responds to therapy.

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As your Gamma Knife radiosurgery to treat your arteriovenous malformation (AVM) approaches, it can be helpful to know what to expect before, during and after your procedure. This post will help you prepare for the appointment itself as well as the recovery period that follows. The more you know ahead of time, the more you can rest easy in the time leading up to your radiosurgery for AVM and focus instead on your recovery.

Read the full post for an overview of your day of treatment and what you can expect following Gamma Knife Radiosurgery.

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The answer has traditionally been “No,” there is not a trigeminal neuralgia cure. But in recent years doctors have gained a much better understanding of trigeminal neuralgia and, as a result, can provide treatment that makes suffering largely a thing of the past for the vast majority of patients.

If you are suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia and want to learn more about your treatment options, please read the full post.

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Tic douloureux, also known as trigeminal neuralgia, is a chronic pain condition. Symptoms include stabbing, electric pain in response to normal activities like chewing. Diagnosis is made by a specialist based on symptoms. There are no tests for tic douloureux. Treatment options include medication, surgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

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When you’re getting ready to undergo a Gamma Knife procedure, knowing exactly what to expect will better prepare you for the day of treatment. Gamma Knife radiosurgery, unlike traditional surgery, doesn’t come with strict rules such as abstaining from eating and drinking 12 hours before surgery, nor does it require that you get ready for a lengthy hospital stay. Nonetheless, being prepared with knowledge of the procedure and the different steps, both before and after, can make the process much smoother for you.

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One form of pituitary tumor treatment available to patients is surgery. Your doctor may recommend surgery as the only mode of treatment, or it may be combined with an advanced form of radiation therapy called Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Generally speaking, there are two surgical approaches used: minimally invasive and traditional transnasal transsphenoidal surgery.

Please read our full post on the benefits and risks of pituitary tumor surgery to learn more.

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Both surgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery offer benefits to you, the patient, as a treatment method for your brain tumor. Surgery offers your doctor the ability to remove all of the tumor, helping prevent a recurrence, and it may be used as part of a combination approach with radiation therapy. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a minimally invasive option, without the need for a hospital stay, reduced pain and shorter recovery time.

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When choosing a Gamma Knife surgery location in the tri-state area, look for a doctor who specializes in using Gamma Knife radiosurgery to treat your specific condition. For example, a Gamma Knife center may specialize in treating brain tumors but has no experience in managing trigeminal neuralgia. Also, see what patient resources are available – Some Gamma Knife centers offer services (such as a nurse navigator that guides you through your treatment) that can help make your experience less stressful. These little extras can make the whole process easier for you and less stressful.

Please read the full post for more information on choosing a Gamma Knife surgery location.

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Gamma Knife Conditions

Though it may sound like a surgical procedure, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is actually a specialized form of radiation treatment that does not require any incisions or even a hospital stay. Instead, Gamma Knife uses focused beams of radiation to target just the area to be treated, sparing healthy surrounding tissue in a completely noninvasive manner and preventing many unpleasant side effects often associated with radiation therapy.

To learn more about treating trigeminial neuralgia with Gamma Knife, please read the full post.

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The difficulty of living with trigeminal neuralgia is that it tends to be regular, daily activities that are what causes trigeminal neuralgia to flare up. This is why many doctors will recommend treatment, as avoiding daily activities can be both difficult and disruptive. Though what triggers acute attacks will vary from patient to patient, many common activities can cause trigeminal neuralgia to ramp up.

Read our full post to learn more about what can cause trigeminal neuralgia to flare up.

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If you have been recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, your doctor has likely already recommended undergoing treatment or a procedure for your brain tumor. Whether you already have your appointment scheduled or are still in the treatment-planning phase of your care, you likely have questions about the different options available. These options can range from surgery to radiation therapy and may include systemic therapy (chemotherapy and immunotherapy) which can be used in conjunction with surgery and/or radiation.

For many patients, the Gamma Knife procedure for a brain tumor is an excellent option. 

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Though a relatively low number of people with MS experience trigeminal neuralgia — about 5 percent — the condition is 20 times more common in those with MS than in the general population. Patients with MS and trigeminal neuralgia tend to be younger (mid-40s, on average), have pain on both sides of the face and maybe experiencing other neurological symptoms, such as dizziness or weakness/numbness in the arms or legs.

To learn more about treating trigeminal neuralgia caused by MS, please read our full post.

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The major difference between brain metastases and brain tumors is the tissue of origin and how the conditions develop. A primary brain tumor is a condition such as a glioma or vestibular schwannoma, which is made up of cells that naturally occur within the brain. In contrast, brain metastases are made up of cancer cells from another site in the body, like the lung or breast. These cells spread (metastasize) from elsewhere in the body and have grown into tumors in the brain.

Please read our full post to learn more about the differences between Brain Metastases and Brain Tumors.

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Gamma Knife vs. Other Treatments

Both methods deliver effective treatment, but Gamma Knife requires fewer sessions. Plus, it has a long, proven history of success, and our doctors consider it the “gold standard” of care for treating cancer, non-malignant tumors and illnesses of the brain. CyberKnife is also effective and patient-friendly in terms of comfort. It is slightly more versatile in what it can treat, but both are great options for treating meningioma.

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You are likely familiar with the idea of radiation therapy to treat brain tumors, but you may not be aware that there are different forms of radiation available. As you educate yourself about your treatment options, you may have come across the terms “whole brain radiation” and “targeted radiation.” It can be helpful to understand the differences between targeted and whole brain radiation, particularly if your doctor has recommended radiation therapy as part of your treatment plan.

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If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a condition of the brain or head, it is likely your doctor has recommended stereotactic radiosurgery as a treatment option. Gamma Knife and CyberKnife are two popular forms of stereotactic radiosurgery and while they are similar, there are differences to consider when choosing the right treatment option for you.

To learn more about Gamma Knife and CyberKnife, please read the full post.

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Today, cancer survival rates and outcomes are improving. Why? Technological advancements are enabling physicians to detect tumors earlier (when they’re smaller), and cancer treatments have advanced. While this is great news in the fight against cancer, it also means that longer-term side effects of treatment have a greater impact on the treatments chosen.

For this reason, recent studies have highlighted the diminishing role of whole-brain radiation, instead supporting the use of stereotactic radiosurgery, such as Gamma Knife.

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Stereotactic radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiation therapy. In contrast to other radiation treatments, stereotactic radiosurgery targets small areas with highly focused, intense beams of radiation. As a result, healthy surrounding tissues receive less radiation. Over the past 60-plus years, different stereotactic radiosurgery delivery systems have been developed. These systems vary in how radiation is delivered and how the patient is positioned for the treatment. Gamma Knife is one of these treatments, and was developed specifically to treat conditions of the brain and head.

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Learning you have brain cancer can be an emotional process. Whether you were just diagnosed or already have a procedure scheduled, the information in this post can help you enhance your understanding of your condition and treatment options, including alternative brain cancer treatments available in the tri-state area.

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Whether you have been recently diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma or have been in a “watch and wait” phase for a while, it’s good to have an understanding of the treatment options available to you. The information in this post will provide background knowledge about acoustic neuromas to form a basis for the discussion of treatment options. Both traditional and alternative treatments for acoustic neuroma will be highlighted to ensure you have an idea of some of the different approaches that are available.

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Understanding the different pituitary tumor treatments in NJ can help you as you move forward in discussions with your personal doctor. He or she will work with you to understand why a particular treatment is most appropriate for your specific condition.Your doctor will recommend treatment for your pituitary tumor depending on your individual condition. To learn more about your options for treating a pituitary tumor in New Jersey, please read the full post.

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An acoustic neuroma is a benign brain tumor that arises from the nerve responsible for balance, the vestibular nerve. Being benign means the tumor will not spread to another site of the body. However, it can still cause unpleasant effects and require treatment if it impinges on nearby tissues. If your doctor has recommended treatment for your acoustic neuroma, there are generally two options. The first approach is traditional surgery, and the second is Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Read the full post to learn more about both treatment options.

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With proton therapy, the depth of radiation penetration into the body can be controlled, theoretically allowing protons to stop traveling when they reach the end of the tumor, thus reducing the radiation dose beyond the tumor. However, several technical factors limit the ability to precisely predict the exact stopping point of the particles.

The photons that Gamma Knife treatment utilizes, however, deposit their radiation dose in a much more predictable manner and are able to precisely target tumors in very sensitive locations with unparalleled accuracy and precise control of a concentrated radiation dose to single or multiple tumors. Read the full post to learn more about these treatments.

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Following your meningioma diagnosis, the next stage is to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that best suits your individual condition and needs. You may be surprised to learn that there are options for meningioma treatment without surgery. Many patients appreciate these options, as they eliminate the risks associated with surgery while providing the benefits of less pain and a shorter recovery time.

While your personal doctor will be the best person to make treatment recommendations based on your medical needs and the characteristics of your meningioma, it can be helpful to understand more about meningioma treatment without surgery on a general level. To learn more about treating meningioma without surgery, please read our full post.

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Gamma Knife Risks + Side Effects

Vascular malformation” is a broad term. The body’s vascular system includes both blood and lymphatic vessels, which allow blood and other substances to flow in a very specific pattern. Sometimes these vessels develop incorrectly before birth, leading to a vascular malformation.

Whether you have been told you have a vascular malformation or are still awaiting a diagnosis, understanding more about the types of vascular malformations, symptoms, and treatment options can be helpful. For a complete overview of Vascular Malformation, please read the full post.

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Though not every patient will experience AVM symptoms, recognizing what they are can be important clues in your diagnosis. Common AVM symptoms include headaches, numbness or muscle weakness, changes in vision, hearing disturbances, loss of coordination, seizures, and problems with memory or focus. To learn more about the common symptoms of AVM, please read the full post.

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Your pituitary tumor symptoms are not necessarily going to be the same as the next patient’s. However, recognizing these symptoms and sharing them with your doctor will help provide important information to facilitate an accurate diagnosis. Your symptoms will depend on whether you have a secreting tumor, as well as the size of your tumor and what structures, if any, are impacted.

To learn more about the symptoms associated with secreating and non-secreting pituitary tumors, please read the full post.

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Your individual pituitary tumor risks and side effects will depend on many factors, such as whether or not your tumor secretes an excess hormone, which type of hormone is being secreted and the size and location of your tumor, as well as any other health conditions you may have. While your personal doctor will be able to discuss pituitary tumor risks and side effects based on your specific circumstances, having a basic understanding can help you play a more active role in that conversation. To learn more about Pituitary Tumors and the risks and side effects of treating them with Gamma Knife, please read the full post.

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Learning you have metastatic brain cancer can be a difficult process. Taking the time to learn more about your condition and treatment options is a great way to provide peace of mind, helping reduce some of the stress you may be feeling. Developing your knowledge and becoming familiar with the terminology will help you in conversations with your medical team and will allow you to play a more active role in your care.

The following information in this post will help you better understand brain metastases surgery, including what to expect during the recovery period and the risks and side effects of the procedure. This information can be useful whether you are still in the treatment planning phase or already have a procedure scheduled.

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While the potential side effects often associated with traditional surgery are avoided, such as infection, incision/surgical site pain, swelling, etc., Gamma Knife radiosurgery can have some potential side effects. Some of these appear shortly after the procedure, while others may take longer to spring up.

Luckily, any side effects of Gamma Knife radiosurgery tend to be mild in comparison to those of their surgical counterparts.

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As your treatment date approaches, it can be useful to understand the benefits, risks and side effects of Gamma Knife radiosurgery to offer insight into the factors that your doctor took into consideration. Doing so can give you confidence in your upcoming procedure and help alleviate some of the stress during this time while providing you with an idea of what to expect following treatment. For a full overview of what to expect, please read the full post.

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Some of the potential side effects of Gamma Knife radiosurgery are due to the nature of radiation therapy. These include nausea, fatigue and headaches, as well as discomfort and hair loss (which is much less common with gamma knife) at the administration site. Sometimes patients experience itching, pain and swelling at the sites where the stabilizing headframe is attached to the scalp, but these effects are transient and last only a couple days. To learn more about the risks and side effects of Gamma Knife for acoustic neuroma, please read the full post.

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Because Gamma Knife radiosurgery is minimally invasive, the recovery period is short and relatively mild. Most patients are able to return to normal activities, including work, within just a day or two. Some patients experience fatigue, headache and nausea for a couple of days. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help ease your symptoms, if necessary. You may also have itchiness or discomfort on your scalp where the headframe pins were attached, but this will also resolve within a day or two. While the recovery period is brief, long term side effects may still occur.

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Gamma Knife radiosurgery is not a type of surgery at all and does not involve any incisions or scalpels. Instead, it is a relatively noninvasive form of radiation therapy performed in an outpatient setting. Gamma Knife is a form of stereotactic radiosurgery, which uses approximately 200 individual beams of minutely focused radiation that can be targeted at a highly specific area for treatment. For an overview of what you can expect from Gamma Knife treatment and the risks and side effects associated with it, please read the full post.

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Any medical procedure has certain risks and potential side effects, which your doctor will consider prior to making any treatment recommendations. Gamma Knife risks and side effects are similar to those of other radiation therapies, though they tend to be milder because of the targeted delivery of radiation to the area of interest. The side effects you may experience can depend on the size and location of the area being treated as well as the duration and frequency of your treatment.

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Whole-brain radiation for metastatic brain cancer is the delivery of low doses of radiation to the entire brain, including both healthy and cancer cells. This is the treatment most people are familiar with when thinking of radiation for treating brain cancer. It has been an effective form of treatment for many years. However, because it doses the entire brain, it can lead to unpleasant side effects, such as difficulties with memory and cognitive deficits.

By contrast, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an advanced form of highly targetted radiation treatment that lets your doctor treat only the cancer cells, sparing healthy surrounding tissue. As a result, patients tend to experience fewer side effects often associated with radiation therapy. To learn more about these two different treatment options, please read the full post.

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Gamma Knife Recovery

The meninges are a thin, durable layer of tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. A meningioma is a tumor that forms from this covering and can grow outward or inward, pressing into the brain. Meningioma causes are not well understood, but they may be related to hormones. This could be why they are more common in women than men and tend to occur between ages 30-70.

Most meningiomas are benign. However, this does not mean they are harmless, and they do still have the potential to be aggressive.

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As you work with your doctor and review your metastatic brain tumor treatment, you’ll likely have questions about what to expect during your recovery period. While your recovery will be a personal process, it can be helpful to understand what generally happens following each type of treatment. For an overview of the expected recovery timeline for both traditional surgery and Gamma Knife treatment, please read the full post.

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Though your recovery will be an individual process, having a general understanding of what the majority of patients will experience can help you continue the conversation with your own personal doctor at your next visit. To help you develop your knowledge of what to expect during your brain tumor recovery, the information in this post will explain more about Gamma Knife radiosurgery, what the recovery period is like and how it compares to brain tumor surgery.

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Because of the procedure’s noninvasive nature, recovery is shorter and less uncomfortable than traditional surgery. Similarly, because the radiation is delivered in a highly focused targeting system, sparing healthy surrounding tissues, there tends to be less nausea, headache, and a shorter overall recovery time. For more information on what you can expect following Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, please read the full post.

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As you learn more about your available acoustic neuroma treatment options in the northern NJ area, it can be helpful to understand more about the recovery period following each.

Whether you already have your procedure scheduled or are still in the treatment planning phase, the information in this post will provide you with an idea of what to expect following two common acoustic neuroma treatments: traditional surgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

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