Patients and physicians at Northridge Hospital discuss the patient experience and the benefits of the Gamma Knife treatment. You can view a video of patients and physicians discussing the patient experience and the benefits of the Gamma Knife treatment. You can also request a copy of the video presentation.
The Gamma Knife is a form of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). Stereotactic radiosurgery is a way of treating brain disorders with a precise delivery of a single high dose of radiation in a one-day session. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is limited to the upper head and neck as these areas can be immobilized ensuring accurate treatment. Treatment involves the use of focused radiation beams delivered to a specific area of the brain to treat blood vessel abnormalities, tumors or other functional disorders.
Stereotactic radiosurgery works the same as all other forms of radiation treatment with very few side effects. It does not remove the tumor or lesion, but it distorts the DNA of the tumor cells. The cells then lose their ability to reproduce and retain fluids. The tumor reduction occurs at the rate of the normal growth rate of the specific tumor cell.
In lesions such as arteriovenous malformation (a tangle of blood vessels in the brain), radiosurgery causes the blood vessels to thicken and close. The shrinking of a tumor or closing off of a vessel occurs over a period of time. For benign tumors and vessels, this will usually be 18 months to two years. For malignant and metastatic tumors, results may be seen as soon as a couple of months as these cells are fast growing.
Possible Side Effects
Swelling: As with all radiation treatments, the cells of the irradiated tumors lose their ability to regulate fluids and edema or swelling may occur. This does not happen in all treatments. If swelling does occur, and it causes symptoms that are unpleasant, then a mild course of steroid medication may be given to reduce the fluid within the tumor cavity.
Necrosis: The tumor tissue that remains after the radiation treatment will typically shrink. On rare occasions this necrotic or dead tissue can cause further problems and may require removal. This occurs in a very small percentage of cases.
Other Effects: Other side effects may occur dependent upon the site of targeting and the dosage of radiation received. This should be discussed thoroughly with your treating physician.
*Source: IRSA, an independent organization dedicated to providing educational information on stereotactic radiosurgery to governments, regulatory agencies, insurers and referring physicians.