How Does the Gamma Knife Work?

By: Groshan Fabiola

The gamma knife is a state-of-the art medical device used to conduct highly precise, non-invasive brain surgeries. Gamma knife surgery dates back to 1967, when Swedish neurosurgeon, Lars Leksell, invented the gamma device. The gamma knife and the computerized treatment planning software that it employs allow physicians to locate and remove small tumors in the brain with extreme precision. During gamma knife surgery, multiple beams of radiation are simultaneously shot at the target area in the patient's brain without causing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

How it Works
The gamma knife uses a technique called stereotactic radio surgery. About 200 beams of radiation converge three-dimensionally on a precise point in the brain, i.e. a tumor. This allows doctors to deliver intense doses of radiation to the target in a safe and efficient manner. The use of robotic technology allows the patient to be moved by precise, sub-millimeter increments during the procedure, ensuring that the radiation hits all parts of the targeted area.

Preparation
With the patient anesthetized, a rigid head frame that incorporates a 3D coordinate system surrounds the patient's skull. Imaging studies are then conducted on the patient's brain and the results are input into the gamma knife's computer system. A group of doctors then delineates the target areas and calculates the parameters of the gamma knife treatment. The best method for performing a treatment during a gamma knife session is by conducting several shots from different angles. A great deal of fine tuning and adjustments must be done in order to determine the optimal gamma knife positioning. When the final coordinates are determined, the head frame is attached to the gamma knife device so that the target area of the patient's brain will be at the exact center where the 200 or so precision radiation beams will intersect. Any given gamma knife surgery can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to complete, depending on the kind of target being treated. The radiation "shots" are not felt by the patient, so there is no pain in that sense. Patients may return to normal activity fairly soon after gamma knife surgery. The gamma knife procedure is currently one of the most effective treatments for brain tumors. Acoustic neuroma gamma knife surgery is an especially effective treatment option, and is growing in popularity for treating acoustic neuroma.


About the Author
For more resources regarding gamma knife surgery or even about treatment for brain tumors and especially about acoustic neuroma gamma knife please review these pages.

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