Symptoms After Gamma Knife Icon Radiosurgery: What to Expect

Whether you already have your Gamma Knife radiosurgery scheduled or you are still considering it as a potential treatment option, it’s important to understand the risks and benefits of the procedure. Educating yourself about your condition and treatment options can help you feel more comfortable throughout the process, reducing some of the stress you may be feeling. Read on to learn more about Gamma Knife Icon radiosurgery, including treatable conditions and what symptoms or side effects may occur following treatment.

Understanding Gamma Knife Icon Radiosurgery

If you haven’t already learned about Gamma Knife radiosurgery, it may be different from what you expect. The name sounds like a surgical technique, but there are no scalpels and no incisions during Gamma Knife radiosurgery. There’s not even a hospital stay. Rather, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiation therapy that can be used to treat many conditions of the brain, head and neck.

During the procedure, close to 200 individual beams of low-dose radiation combine to produce a therapeutic effect. These beams can be targeted at an area as small as 0.15 mm, which is smaller than a single human hair. Using this technology, doctors can direct treatment with high accuracy to the area of interest, sparing healthy surrounding tissues. Gamma Knife radiosurgery results in fewer unpleasant side effects than traditional radiation therapy, which impacts both healthy and unhealthy cells.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery takes place in an outpatient setting. This means there is no overnight hospital stay, and most patients are home within a few hours of completing treatment. While recovery is typically brief and mild, some patients do experience side effects or symptoms after Gamma Knife radiosurgery, discussed in greater detail further on. However, most patients are back to normal activities, including work, in a day or two.

Conditions Treated Using Gamma Knife

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a form of stereotactic radiosurgery explicitly used to treat conditions affecting the brain, head and neck. Commonly treated conditions include:

Your doctor will consider your individual case to determine if Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a treatment option for you. Many patients who are eligible for surgery are also good candidates for Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

Generally speaking, people who might benefit from Gamma Knife radiosurgery include:

  • Patients who are not good surgical candidates due to complicated health conditions or surgical risks
  • Patients who are scheduled for removal of a tumor but need adjunctive therapy to eradicate any remaining cells
  • Patients who have an area that is difficult to access via surgical methods
  • Patients who have undergone other treatment without results, such as refractory trigeminal neuralgia
  • Patients who prefer a minimally invasive treatment option

Symptoms After Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

Again, it will be your doctor who will discuss the risks of Gamma Knife radiosurgery as they relate to you and your condition. However, it can be helpful to understand what patients typically experience following treatment with Gamma Knife radiosurgery in general.

Immediately after your Gamma Knife radiosurgery procedure, you might feel a bit tired. It’s usually helpful to plan to spend the remainder of the day giving your body the rest it needs. Most patients are back to work and other activities within a day or two. Because the procedure is minimally invasive, there are no restrictions on exercise, lifting or other activities.

Some patients experience a headache and/or nausea immediately following treatment. These side effects are typically mild. However, if you are uncomfortable, your doctor may prescribe medications to help manage your symptoms.

Benefits of Gamma Knife Icon Radiosurgery

If your doctor has recommended Gamma Knife radiosurgery, it means the benefits to you outweigh the risks. Though you will need to discuss the specific benefits and risks of treatment with your doctor, possible benefits include:

  • No hospital stay
  • No risks related to surgery
  • No incisions, sutures or staples
  • Brief and mild recovery, with little post-procedure discomfort
  • Fewer unpleasant side effects than traditional radiation therapy
  • Ability to combine Gamma Knife radiosurgery with other treatment approaches
  • Ability to treat conditions that have not responded to other interventions

Discuss Your Treatment with Your Doctor

It’s great that you have taken the time to learn more about the side effects that can occur after Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Take what you’ve learned here into your next conversation with your doctor. Spend some time writing down any questions you have. Consider asking what side effects or symptoms you may need to anticipate after your procedure and how to manage them. The more you prepare beforehand, the less you will need to worry about things later. This will help you focus your energy on what matters most: recovering, feeling better and getting on with your life.

Anthony D’Ambrosio, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.N.S
Anthony D’Ambrosio, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.N.S
Dr. Anthony D’Ambrosio is a board-certified neurosurgeon that specializes in Neurosurgery, Stereotactic Radiosurgery, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery (GKRS) and more. He is the Director of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of the Gamma Knife Program at The Valley Hospital. Dr. D’Ambrosio is an expert in treating patients with trigeminal neuralgia, benign or malignant brain tumors, as well as many other neurological conditions.

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