Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

This a guest post by Amanda who is a writer and blogger living in San Diego, CA. She writes on behalf of the San Diego Gamma Knife Surgery Center, and through this article, she hopes to spread the word about the benefits of Gamma Knife surgery for the treatment of brain tumors.

Brain tumors are a serious matter that affect more than 200,000 people in the U.S. every year. However, brain tumors do not discriminate against age or gender. Though brain tumors usually affect adults over 35 years of age, even children can get them. Although not all brain tumors are cancerous, benign tumors can still be life threatening which is why early detection and treatment is essential. Advances in technology have helped not only in the detection of brain tumors, but also to facilitate the creation of alternative brain tumor treatments that are non-invasive with little to no side effects. One such treatment, Gamma Knife radiosurgery, is becoming the most supported treatment for brain tumors and trigeminal neuralgia. Here is a look at how the Gamma Knife works.

Previous treatments for brain tumors often consisted of surgical resection of the tumor, or through the use of chemotherapy drugs which can have damaging side effects. However, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a non-invasive brain surgery which allows many patients to be treated who would not have normally been able to survive an open brain surgery. Many of the common risks of brain surgery are reduced or completely eliminated, and the patient only needs one effective single session treatment. Long term studies have not shown that treating brain tumors with a gamma knife is unsafe or has any harmful side effects.

However, the Gamma Knife is not really a knife at all. Despite it’s name, the Gamma Knife is actually a non-invasive neurosurgical procedure that uses high doses of gamma radiation while leaving surrounding tissue intact. This type of stereotactic radiation, allows the beams of radiation to be focused on the tumor with extreme accuracy, thereby reducing the damage to healthy tissues. This method can be used in conjunction with surgical resection, to help improve the odds of survival for the patient.

Over 500,000 people have been treated with the Gamma Knife surgery and it is becoming the most widely used and accepting radiosurgery treatments in the world. Since it usually costs half that of open brain surgery and is often fully reimbursed by insurance, it is also considered one of the most financially cost effective treatments available as well.

The Gamma Knife is the only radiation therapy system approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) for irradiating brain metastases and there have been 2,500 peer reviewed clinical papers supporting Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for the treatment of brain tumors. Additionally, there are currently about 125 Gamma Knife Centers in the US, making it more widely available throughout the country.

Some of the advantages of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery are:

  • The Gamma Knife tools are designed specifically for surgeries conducted on the brain.
  • The accuracy of the Gamma Knife prevents damage to nearby tissues in the brain.
  • With a success rate of about 90%, the gamma knife radiosurgery has proven to be the most effective treatment for brain tumors and trigeminal neuralgia.
  • Compared to other brain surgeries, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is a more cost effective treatment.
  • There is little pain or discomfort and the patient is not required to use general anesthesia, reducing the risk of some medical complications.
  • Since the Gamma Knife tools does not make any incision, there is no chance of hemorrhage or infection.
  • Hospitalization is very short and usually the patient can leave the hospital within five hours to resume their normal daily activities.
  • The gamma knife offers treatment options to patients who were once diagnosed as untreatable without having open skull surgery.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is most effective for the following conditions:

  • Intracranial tumors such as acoustic neuromas, pituitary adenomas, pinealomas, craniopharyngiomas, meningiomas, chordomas, chondrosarcomas, metastases and glial tumors.
  • Vascular malformations including arteriovenous malformations.
  • Functional disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

There are some risks associated with Gamma Knife surgery despite being seen as the safest, most effective treatment for brain tumors and AVMs. There are usually no immediate side effects of Gamma Knife surgery other than mild nausea or headache related to the application and removal of the guiding device. As with many new procedures, there is a possibility of delayed transient or persistent side effects, around 3 to 18 months after treatment, depending on the size and location of the tumor or AVM. Those side effects include problems such as numbness, weakness, imbalance, hearing loss, and worsening of vision. Nonetheless, the largest concern for patients is usually only the anxiety and nervousness leading up to the radiosurgery.

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