What is Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?
Though it sounds like a surgical procedure, Gamma Knife radiosurgery doesn’t involve any scalpels or incisions. Rather, it’s an advanced form of radiation therapy that uses 192 individual beams of high-dose radiation to target an area as precise as 0.15 mm. To put that into perspective, that’s the width of a single human hair. As a result, there is less radiation dosage to healthy surrounding tissues, leading to fewer unpleasant side effects than traditional radiation therapy.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a minimally invasive procedure, so there is no need to stay overnight in the hospital. There are no stitches or weeks of activity restrictions like patients experience after traditional brain surgery. In fact, many patients are back to work and normal activity levels within a day or two.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is used specifically to treat conditions of the brain, head and neck. Though your doctor will need to determine if you are a good candidate for Gamma Knife radiosurgery, treatable conditions include:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Arteriovenous malformation
- Brain metastases
- Pineal tumor
- Pituitary tumor
- Skull base tumor
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Vascular malformation
- Vestibular schwannoma
What is the Success Rate for Gamma Knife Treatment?
Before discussing the Gamma Knife success rate, it’s important to understand that every patient is unique and many factors can impact your outcome. These include the details of your condition and your overall health. That’s why it’s vital you continue this discussion with a doctor, who can best help you understand the expected results following your treatment.
Overall, Gamma Knife radiosurgery has been used to treat conditions of the brain, head and neck with great success. Because the treatment is minimally invasive and the side effects are generally mild (discussed in more detail below), it can be an excellent option for many patients instead of surgery or traditional radiation therapy. Gamma Knife radiosurgery can also successfully be used in conjunction with other treatments or after other options have failed.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Brain Tumors
There are many different types of brain tumors, and the success of your treatment will depend on the type of tumor, its size and location and your overall health. This is especially true for malignant brain tumors, making success rates difficult to predict. However, if you are diagnosed with metastatic brain tumors, Gamma Knife radiosurgery has been shown to shrink or prevent tumor growth in 80-90% of cases. Similarly, Gamma Knife radiosurgery typically shrinks or stops the growth of acoustic neuromas (vestibular schwannomas) 90% of the time.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Arteriovenous Malformations
An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is essentially a tangle of blood vessels that prevents healthy blood flow to an area. An AVM can be treated using Gamma Knife radiosurgery when they form in the brain. Patients with large AVMs may require multiple treatment sessions over time. However, Gamma Knife radiosurgery has a 90% success rate for treating small AVMs that are less than 3 cm.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that leads to excruciating pain in response to normal daily activities. The cause is typically an aberrant blood vessel impinging on the trigeminal nerve, leading to inappropriate pain signals. Gamma Knife radiosurgery can target the trigeminal nerve directly and help 90% of patients achieve pain relief at the one-year mark. Even patients who experience medically refractory trigeminal neuralgia, which has failed to respond to previous treatment, can be successfully treated with Gamma Knife radiosurgery.
What are the Side Effects of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?
In addition to the expected success of treatment, it’s important to understand possible adverse outcomes or side effects. Generally speaking, recovery following Gamma Knife radiosurgery is brief and mild and most patients are back to normal activities the next day. However, some patients do experience headaches, nausea and fatigue for a day or two after treatment. These symptoms are typically transient and can be managed with medications if necessary.
A second side effect is less common and doesn’t occur immediately. Some patients experience delayed swelling of the brain approximately six months after treatment. However, your doctor will monitor you for the condition and, if it occurs, will prescribe medication to resolve the issue.
Continue the Discussion with Your Doctor
Now that you have a deeper understanding of Gamma Knife radiosurgery and what to expect after treatment, it’s time to take what you’ve learned here to the next level with your doctor. He or she is familiar with your individual condition and health history and is in a position to discuss expected outcomes after your Gamma Knife radiosurgery procedure. Contact the Valley Gamma Knife team with any questions you have or to set up a consultation to see if Gamma Knife is right for you.