As you are learning more about available treatment options in northern NJ for your medical condition, you have likely encountered the terms stereotactic radiosurgery or Gamma Knife Icon. Because patients have different levels of understanding of Gamma Knife radiosurgery as a treatment option, the following discussion will answer some commonly asked questions. The goal is to ensure you have a basic understanding of the technology, the procedure and the recovery period, allowing you to be prepared and make informed decisions throughout the treatment process.
What is Stereotactic Radiosurgery?
Stereotactic radiosurgery may sound like a surgical procedure, especially considering one delivery system used is called the Gamma Knife Icon. You may be surprised to learn that it is actually a specialized form of radiation therapy and does not require any incisions or surgery at all. In fact, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is relatively minimally invasive and is performed in an outpatient setting, without the need for a hospital stay.
Using advanced technology, stereotactic radiosurgery delivers focused beams of energy directly to the site of interest, such as a tumor or vascular malformation, killing the targeted cells. Because the technology is so precise, your doctor is able to treat a very small, specific area with minimal impact on surrounding healthy tissues. This results in reduced side effects and faster healing time when compared to traditional surgery or other radiation therapies, such as whole brain radiation.
How Does the Gamma Knife Icon Differ?
There are a few different stereotactic radiosurgery systems available, but one that stands apart and is favored by many specialists in northern NJ is the Leksell Gamma Knife Icon. Leksell is the company that originally developed stereotactic radiosurgery, and the Gamma Knife Icon is the latest and most advanced Leksell system available.
The Gamma Knife Icon uses 192 individual beams of focused energy, which your doctor can use to directly target the area to be treated using advanced imaging techniques. The system is incredibly precise, with a guaranteed accuracy of 0.15 mm – the width of just two human hairs. This ensures that any surrounding tissues receive minimal dosing, resulting in fewer of the unpleasant side effects often associated with radiation therapy.
What Can You Expect During the Procedure?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery takes place in an outpatient setting, either in a hospital or Gamma Knife center. You will be awake during the entire procedure and will be able to return home within a couple of hours of its completion.
The first step in your treatment is the placement of either a headframe or custom-fit mask, depending on your individual procedure. The headframe and mask are designed to keep you still and stable throughout your Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Once in place, an MRI will be performed, followed by the planning of your individual treatment with your doctor and the physics team.
During the actual procedure, you will lay on a treatment table. You will be awake and able to communicate with your treatment team at any time, and they will be keeping you informed of what is happening. The procedure itself typically takes from 15-60 minutes, depending on the area being treated. Many patients only require a single treatment session, though some people will require up to five. Your doctor will give you an idea of what you can expect for your individual condition.
What Can You Expect Following the Procedure?
Because treatment using the Gamma Knife Icon is minimally invasive and so precise, most patients are able to return to regular activities, including work, within a day or two. You may find that you are tired at first, and some patients experience nausea and headaches immediately following treatment. However, these are typically mild and transient, and your doctor can prescribe you medications to help ease any discomfort.
As far as resolution of your symptoms and your recovery process, your doctor will be the best person to discuss your individual expected outcome. While some patients will experience immediate relief, others will require multiple sessions and/or time for the body to heal before any noticeable changes. Much depends on your particular condition and individual health factors, and recovery is a very personal process.
Gamma Knife Icon and You
Now that you have a better understanding of the Gamma Knife Icon system and Gamma Knife radiosurgery in general, you can continue the conversation with your doctor. Whether you already have a procedure scheduled, are still in the treatment planning phase or have not yet settled on a doctor in the NYC or northern NJ area, what you have learned today has made you a more informed patient, setting you up to play an even more active role in your healthcare.
As you move forward through the treatment process, continue to learn as much as you can about your personal condition and available treatment options. Self-education is a powerful way to gain confidence in your treatment, helping to provide peace of mind as you progress towards recovery.