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Preparation & Planning
Stereotactic Frame Placement
On the day of treatment, a stereotactic frame is attached to the patient’s head. Patients are given a mild sedative and then a local anesthetic is used to numb the pin sites for frame placement. Seldom is there a need for general anesthesia with its uncomfortable side effects and potential risks. The lightweight aluminum-alloy head frame is essential for total immobilization of the head during imaging and treatment. Frame placement is usually completed within 20 minutes.
A member of the clinical team accompanies the patient to the imaging area. Depending on the condition being treated, tests may include one or more of the following: MRI, CT scan and angiography. These tests are performed with the stereotactic frame on the patient’s head. The frame’s special markers are what allow the physician to view the exact coordinates of the abnormality. The imaging tests may take an hour or longer to complete.
Planning During this important step, the patient is able to relax and have a light snack while the neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist and physicist review the patient’s scans and map out a course of treatment. The radiological images and sophisticated computer modeling enable our team of specialists to precisely tailor the Gamma Knife treatment plan to conform to the exact location and dimensions of the abnormality. Planning includes how many areas to treat, the appropriate radiation dose for each area and the time required. It may take several hours to develop this extremely complex plan. During this time, many patients choose to visit with their families, read watch TV or take a nap.
Once the plan is completed, the patient will go to the Gamma Knife unit for the procedure. During the procedure, the patient lies down and the head frame will be locked into place on the Gamma Knife system. This ensures pinpoint accuracy of the radiation treatment. Then, the physician will use the Gamma Knife® Perfexion™ to deliver 192 very precise cobalt-60 gamma radiation beams to the treatment area.
The Gamma Knife procedure is safe and effective because individual gamma radiation beams are too weak to damage healthy tissue on their way to the target area but are very powerful when they merge simultaneously at the area of focus. A single treatment is usually all that is needed. The Gamma Knife treatment is painless and typically lasts between 30 minutes and two hours, depending on the number of areas to be treated and the size of each area. The actual time required to complete the treatment varies depending on the patient's individual condition and diagnosis. During treatment, the team remains in constant voice and visual contact with the patient.
One Outpatient Treatment
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a one-session treatment, as opposed to traditional radiation therapy which is administered over time in multiple sessions. The Gamma Knife treatment, typically performed on an outpatient basis, is virtually painless. There's no knife, no incision and no lengthy recovery period. Most patients return to normal activities within 24 to 48 hours.
"I was impressed by this alternative to surgery. I was back at work the next day. I'm glad the Gamma Knife was a treatment option for me."
— David Hunt, Columbia, S.C.
To see the Gamma Knife process, you may preview the attached pictures.