Gamma Knife Treatment Center
What Is the Gamma Knife?
The Gamma Knife is an instrument that delivers 201extremely focused cobalt radiation beams to one point in thebrain. The radiation is focused so precisely that it affects only the targeted tissue while sparing the surroundinghealthy tissue.
Because the procedure requires no incision, it is bloodless andcarries few of the risks of traditional open surgery. Mostpatients are treated in one session and can return home soonafter the procedure.
A neurosurgeon and radiation oncologist will determine if alesion is suitable for Gamma Knife treatment. The type, size,and location of the lesion may mean that open surgery is a betteroption for many patients.
Each patient meets with a specialist who will explain theentire procedure. The specialist belongs to the Radiosurgery team that conducts the surgery and provides care. The team usuallyconsists of the neurosurgeon, the radiation oncologist, and aradiation physicist. As part of the UAB Health System, thesespecialists also have instant access to resources and expertise inmore than 30 fields of medicine if the need should arise.
The patient is then fitted with a stereotactic head frame. Thelightweight frame keeps the head still during the procedure and ensures that the radiation hits the precise target in the brain.Local anesthetic is used where the frame fits to the head. Thepatient does not have to cut or shave hair.
Imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computedtomography (CT), or angiography, is done to determinethe exact size, shape, and position of the target in thebrain. A coordinate box is placed on the head frame duringimaging to provide reference points for images.
Next, the specialist team develops a treatment plan tailoredto each patient’s specific needs and condition. The plan identifiesthe precise target in the brain for the radiation and calculateshow the radiosurgery should be performed.
The Leksell Gamma Knife at UAB offers patients with certain disorders a safe, effective alternative to conventional neurosurgery. The highly advanced technology allows UAB specialists to treat arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), benign and malignant brain tumors, and some functional brain disorders without an incision—and without damaging healthy tissue. From 1995 to 2005, UAB physicians treated more than 2,500 patients with Gamma Knife radiosurgery, and each year the Gamma Knife benefits over 30,000 patients worldwide.
UAB offers the Gamma Knife as part of a Neurosurgery and Radiation oncology treatment programs recognized for comprehensive care, innovative research, expert specialists, and advanced technology. U.S. News & World Report has ranked UAB’s neurosurgery program among America’s best.
Gamma Knife surgery itself is silent and painless. Thepatient is awake during treatment and is able to communicatewith specialists and nurses through an audio/video connection.
The patient lies on a couch, with the head frame attachedto a metal helmet. When treatment begins, the couch movesinto a dome that holds and aims the radiation.
The actual treatment lasts from one to three hours, dependingon the target’s size and shape. The specialist team monitorseach patient constantly throughout the procedure. Thepatient should expect to be at the Gamma Knife facility theentire day.
Once the radiosurgery is complete, some patients occasionallyhave a mild headache or minor swelling where the headframe was attached.
Most patients are able to return home immediately. Even ifpatients stay in the hospital overnight for observation, mostcan return to normal routines in a day or two.
The effects of radiation treatment occur over time, usuallya period of weeks or months. Each patient’s physician willassess his or her progress, which may involve follow-up MRI,CT, or angiography imaging.
For More Information
To learn more about radiosurgery at UAB or to makean appointment, call 205.930.7722.
The UAB Gamma Knife is at UAB Highlands, located in the Medical Center District at 1201 11th Ave. South.