Radiosurgery uses highly focused energy to treat a specific area. This is in contrast to other radiation therapies, which target a large area of the body, including both healthy and unhealthy tissue.
- Types of radiosurgery include Gamma Knife, TrueBeam Rapid Arc, CyberKnife and proton therapy.
- Radiosurgery does not involve any scalpels or incision.
- Patients treated with radiosurgery vs. traditional surgery typically experience less post-procedure pain and a shorter recovery period.
- Radiosurgery can treat many conditions of the face, head and neck.
- Radiosurgery is available in northern NJ for patients who are not good surgical candidates or prefer a minimally invasive treatment option.
What is radiosurgery? It’s not actually surgery at all, but an advanced form of radiation therapy available in the tri-state area. Many people are familiar with the use of radiation to treat conditions like tumors. Traditional radiation therapy involves dosing an entire area with low doses of radiation over many sessions, exposing both healthy and target tissue to its effects. This is why many people experience unpleasant side effects following treatment.
However, in the 1950s, experts developed a different form of radiation therapy: radiosurgery (also called stereotactic radiosurgery). Rather than dosing an entire area, radiosurgery uses individual beams of low-dose radiation to target a focused site. This reduces the dose of radiation to healthy surrounding tissues, reducing the unpleasant side effects associated with radiation therapy.
Because there are no surgical risks involved, radiosurgery can be an excellent treatment option for patients who are not good surgical candidates or who simply prefer a minimally invasive treatment option. Radiosurgery can also be used as an adjunct therapy, such as following surgical resection of a brain tumor to eliminate remaining cells or treat recurring tumors.
Types of Radiosurgery
While answering the question “What is radiosurgery?,” it is important to address that there are different types of radiosurgery that have been developed over the years. While each type of radiosurgery can effectively treat small areas without any incisions, the technologies and delivery systems vary.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
The Gamma Knife radiosurgery system uses approximately 200 individual beams to treat a target area with a precision of 0.15 mm. That’s about the width of a single human hair. Developed specifically to treat conditions of the face, head and neck, Gamma Knife radiosurgery treatment lasts approximately 15-75 minutes, depending on the treatment area. Some patients require only a single treatment, though others may need up to five sessions.
During treatment, patients wear a lightweight headframe or custom-made mask to minimize movement. The system constantly checks for any changes in position, allowing for extreme accuracy and precision during treatment. Once your Gamma Knife radiosurgery session is complete, you are able to return home within an hour or two.
The CyberKnife system is an example of a Linear Accelerator (LINAC) procedure and is similar to Gamma Knife radiosurgery in that it uses photon energy to treat an area. However, CyberKnife uses only a single beam of energy and is not specifically designed to treat the face, head and neck. While the system does offer targeted treatment of a specific area, there are advantages of the Gamma Knife radiosurgery system when treating diseases of the brain.
Proton therapy uses protons instead of photons to treat the targeted area. The difference is when proton energy enters the body, it stops at a certain calculated distance. This allows a targeted area to be treated with a proton, which will not penetrate beyond the desired distance. The primary indication for this treatment is certain tumors in pediatric patients, where delicate developing tissues can be spared. However, the benefit does not translate to adult patients, and there are no demonstrated indications for the use of proton therapy in adult patients instead of other forms of radiosurgery.
Benefits of Radiosurgery
Radiosurgery offers many benefits to NJ patients when compared to traditional forms of radiation therapy (such as whole-brain radiation therapy), as well as surgery. Benefits of radiosurgery vs. traditional radiation therapy include:
- Targeted delivery of treatment, sparing more healthy surrounding tissue
- Fewer unpleasant side effects
- Shorter, milder recovery period
- Less treatment sessions overall
Many conditions can be treated using either surgery or radiosurgery. Your doctor will present the treatment plan that will be most beneficial for your individual situation, but advantages of radiosurgery over traditional surgery include:
- No hospital stay
- No incisions or sutures
- No scarring
- Less pain, bleeding and swelling following treatment
- Shorter, milder recovery period
- Ability to resume normal activities within a day or two
Conditions Treated Using Radiosurgery
Radiosurgery can be used to treat many conditions, either as a primary treatment or as a follow-up to another procedure (such as surgery). Conditions of the face, head and neck that can be treated with radiosurgery include:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Arteriovenous malformation
- Brain metastases
- Pineal tumors
- Pituitary tumors
- Skull base tumors
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Vascular malformation
- Vestibular schwannoma
Radiosurgery and Your Condition
At this point, you better understand the answer to the question, “What is radiosurgery?” The next step is to continue the discussion with your personal doctor about your individual condition and whether you would benefit from radiosurgery treatment at a northern NJ radiosurgery center. Many conditions can be treated with radiosurgery instead of traditional radiation therapy or surgery, often making it an excellent, minimally invasive treatment option.