What is Stereotactic Radiosurgery? Gamma Knife vs CyberKnife

Stereotactic radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiation therapy. Two types available in northern New Jersey are Gamma Knife radiosurgery and CyberKnife. Similarities and differences are highlighted below.

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery uses individual beams of radiation to treat a targeted area and does not require any incisions or hospital stay.
  • Gamma Knife radiosurgery uses 192 beams designed specifically to treat conditions of the head and neck.
  • CyberKnife uses a single beam with a mobile arm to treat the desired area.
  • Recovery is brief and mild, and patients typically return to activities in a day or two.

Understanding Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Learning about your condition is a powerful way to feel more comfortable with your diagnosis and future treatment. This includes learning about the different treatment options available in the tri-state area. As you have been educating yourself, you may have come across the terms stereotactic radiosurgery, Gamma Knife radiosurgery or CyberKnife. The following information will help you better understand these treatments and how they relate to you and your condition.

What is Stereotactic Radiosurgery?

Stereotactic radiosurgery uses highly focused radiation to achieve results similar to surgery, but without the need for scalpels or incisions. Developed in the 1950s in Sweden, it has been successfully used to treat many conditions without the need for a hospital stay or lengthy recovery. There are different forms of stereotactic radiosurgery, including Gamma Knife radiosurgery and CyberKnife, but they operate a similar principle. That is, radiation treatment is delivered to a focused area, reducing dosage to healthy surrounding tissues.

Conditions Treated with Stereotactic Radiosurgery

There are many conditions that can be treated using stereotactic radiosurgery, either as a primary treatment or as adjunct therapy. For example, a patient may undergo surgical removal of part of a brain tumor, followed by stereotactic radiosurgery to eliminate any remaining tumor cells. Conditions of the head, face and neck that can be treated using stereotactic radiosurgery include:

The Technology: Gamma Knife vs CyberKnife

Gamma Knife radiosurgery and CyberKnife are two different technologies used to perform stereotactic radiosurgery. Both options are available to patients in New Jersey, and your doctor may recommend one or the other based on your individual condition.

The Gamma Knife radiosurgery system was developed specifically for treating conditions of the face, head and neck, including brain tumors. The procedure itself typically lasts 15-75 minutes, and patients can undergo 1-5 sessions depending on individual treatment needs. This system uses 192 individual beams of low-dose radiation, which combine to have a therapeutic effect. During treatment, the patient wears a lightweight headframe or custom-fitted mask to minimize movement. The system uses infrared technology to monitor for any changes in position and high-resolution MRI technology to image the target tissues. Using Gamma Knife radiosurgery, your doctor can target an area as precise as 0.15 mm, the width of a single human hair.

In contrast, the CyberKnife system uses a single beam of energy and a mobile robotic arm, which moves around the treatment area. This can be used to treat areas outside of the head and neck, moving from point to point instead of a fixed, calibrated point. The CyberKnife system uses x-ray technology to detect movement and requires the use of a face mask for immobilization. Treatment with CyberKnife typically takes 30-90 minutes and may require multiple sessions, again depending on the target area being treated.

Benefits of Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Your personal doctor will explain what is stereotactic radiosurgery in more detail and make treatment recommendations based on your individual condition. It is important to note that there are benefits of stereotactic radiosurgery when compared to traditional radiation therapy. Your doctor will also take these into consideration when developing a treatment plan to meet your personal needs.

The benefits of stereotactic radiosurgery over traditional radiation therapy include:

  • Targeted delivery of radiation therapy, sparing healthy surrounding tissue
  • Less damage to healthy tissue results in fewer unpleasant side effects and shorter recovery
  • Fewer treatment sessions overall

When compared to traditional surgery, the benefits of stereotactic radiosurgery include:

  • No surgical risks, such as bleeding and infection or reaction to general anesthesia
  • No hospital stay
  • No incisions, sutures/staples or scars
  • Brief, mild recovery period, lasting only a day or two

Benefits of Gamma Knife over CyberKnife

Because the systems do differ, there are some benefits of Gamma Knife radiosurgery when compared to the CyberKnife system. These include:

  • The Gamma Knife system was developed specifically to treat conditions of the brain, head and neck
  • Treatment planning is done directly on a high-resolution MRI
  • Gamma Knife radiosurgery has been proven effective, with over a 40-year track record of treating patients around the world
  • Patients have more immobilization options with the Gamma Knife system
  • During Gamma Knife radiosurgery, infrared cameras are used to monitor for patient movement, rather than x-rays with increased radiation dose
  • The Gamma Knife system has fewer moving parts, resulting in higher accuracy in delivery

What is Stereotactic Radiosurgery? Understanding Your Treatment Options

Having an understanding of the treatment options available to you in northern NJ will help you as you move forward through the diagnosis and treatment process. Stereotactic radiosurgery can be an excellent treatment option for patients who are not good surgical candidates or who simply prefer a minimally invasive treatment approach. If you still have questions about stereotactic radiosurgery and your individual condition, be sure to bring them up with your personal doctor. He or she will be able to discuss your treatment options and whether stereotactic radiosurgery is a good choice for you.

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