Stereotactic Radiosurgery vs Gamma Knife: What’s the Difference?

Learning about the treatment options available to you in NJ can be like learning a new language. Let’s clarify the differences between stereotactic radiosurgery vs. Gamma Knife.

What is Stereotactic Radiosurgery?

Stereotactic radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiation therapy. In contrast to other radiation treatments, it targets small areas with highly focused, intense radiation beams. Because the doctor only treats the area of interest, the healthy surrounding tissues receive less radiation. The result is an effective treatment with fewer unpleasant side effects than more traditional forms of radiation therapy.

Different stereotactic radiosurgery delivery systems have emerged of  the past 60 years. The patient’s position during treatment and the way radiation is delivered varies from system to system. However, the overall principle of focused radiation therapy is the same. Some of the stereotactic radiosurgery systems available in the tri-state area are Gamma Knife, CyberKnife and TrueBeam STx.

Next, let’s explore Gamma Knife treatment and the differences between stereotactic radiosurgery vs Gamma Knife.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

The Gamma Knife radiation system treats conditions of the brain and head. Some other types of stereotactic radiosurgery can treat any body site but lack the Gamma Knife system’s specialization.

This nonsurgical procedure occurs in an outpatient setting, so you don’t have to stay overnight in the hospital. Most patients return home an hour or two after the completion of treatment. Though some patients may experience a mild headache, fatigue or nausea after treatment, most people are back to normal activity levels within two days of the procedure.

The actual treatment takes approximately 15-90 minutes to complete, depending on what the doctor is treating. You will be awake and able to speak to your doctor the entire time. Many patients only require a single session of Gamma Knife radiosurgery. However, depending on the treatment area and its condition, some patients may need up to five sessions in total.

Choosing a Treatment Option

Your doctor will consider many factors when developing your treatment plan. These include your condition, overall health and personal treatment desires. Some of the conditions that Gamma Knife radiosurgery can treat include:

  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Arteriovenous malformation
  • Brain metastases
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Glioma
  • Meningioma
  • Pineal tumors
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Skull base tumors
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Vascular malformation
  • Vestibular schwannoma

If you have any of the above conditions, your doctor may consider Gamma Knife treatment for the following reasons:

  • You are not a good candidate for surgery due to complicating health conditions
  • The treatment area is not easily accessible or is close to structures at risk of damage during surgery or traditional radiation therapy
  • You wish to avoid the extended treatment length associated with conventional radiation
  • You prefer a minimally invasive procedure, without the need for incisions or a hospital stay
  • You have had surgery to remove part of a tumor but require follow-up treatment to remove any remaining cells
  • You have already had treatment, but your tumor has returned and requires retreatment

Your Personalized Treatment Path

The list of conditions and reasons above is by no means exhaustive. Your personal doctor is the best person to discuss Gamma Knife radiosurgery relative to your exact diagnosis. They will explain whether Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an appropriate option for you and why (or why not). Now that you understand the differences between stereotactic radiosurgery vs Gamma Knife, you will be more comfortable discussing it with your doctor.

Continue to educate yourself about your condition and treatment options available in northern NJ. Being comfortable with your procedure and knowing what to expect will let you rest easy as you prepare for treatment and recovery. Should you have any questions about what you have learned, be sure to follow up with your personal doctor. They will help clarify, setting your mind at ease when you could use it most.

Learning More About Your Options

Learning about the treatment options available in northern NJ is a great idea. It aids you in conversations with your doctor, gives you confidence in your decisions and helps set your expectations. The result is better peace of mind and reduced stress, allowing you to focus your energy elsewhere. 

To learn more, call us at 201-634-5610.

Get Your Questions Answered, By a Real Person.

Our Patient Liaison is here to help you understand your next step. After discussing your specific case, she can help you navigate your medical records, answer insurance questions, and connect you with one of our nurses, at no charge to you.

Patient liaisons explain Gamma Knife surgery cost, outcomes, etc.