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What to Expect

What to expect before, during and after Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

How It Works

Gamma Knife radiosurgery delivers radiation in a more accurate and precise fashion than conventional radiation therapy.

It works by passing high-energy beams of radiation through to the tumor from all different vantage points. While each single beam of radiation is relatively weak, the point where all the beams meet receives a very powerful amount of radiation. The sum total of all of the beams is strong enough to inactivate even some of the most aggressive tumors.

Gamma Knife also reduces the risk of damage to healthy areas of the brain and is often recommended for tumors in hard to reach places within the brain.

Before, During and After the Procedure

The procedure is simple and painless.

1. Attaching the Head Frame

We attach a lightweight frame to your head with four screws and a local anesthetic to prevent  your head from moving so that the neurosurgeon can accurately target the treatment.

imaging2. Imaging

After the head frame is in place, we determine the exact size, shape and position of the target in your brain, using either magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) or angiography.

During imaging, a coordinate box is placed on the head frame to provide reference points on the images for the treatment plan. After imaging, the box is removed.

3. Treatment Planning

Once imaging has been completed, your doctor develops a precise treatment plan, During this time, you can rest. No two treatment plans are alike; every patient’s plan is designed to address the patient’s specific medical condition. The doctor, sometimes with another team specialist, enters the imaging data and other information into a computer and calculates how the treatment should be performed.

4. Treatment

Once your treatment plan is completed, the actual treatment can start:

  • You will lie down on the treatment couch.
  • The head frame will be attached to a helmet.
  • The couch will move into the dome section of the unit.
  • The team monitor the procedure at all times.
  • The treatment will last anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour, depending on the size and shape of the target.

During the treatment, you can:

  • Stay awake
  • Talk to the doctor or nurse
  • Listen to music

5. After the Treatment

When your treatment is complete, the head frame will be removed. If you had an angiogram, you might have to lie quietly for several more hours. While some patients experience a mild headache or minor swelling where the head frame was attached, which we can treat with pain relievers, most report no problems.

You may stay overnight for observation or return home immediately. However, you should be able to return to your normal routines in a day or so.

Sheehan with patient6. Follow-Up

The effects of your treatment will occur over time - a period of weeks or months. We may evaluate your progress with follow-up MRI, CT or angiography images.

Gamma Knife at UVA
Go In-Depth

UVA's World-Class Facilities

We were one of the first centers in the world to use the Gamma Knife Perfexion, the first total redesign of the technology in 30 years. Gamma Knife has always been the gold standard for radiosurgery, and Perfexion improves accuracy and precision even more.

How It Works

Neurosurgeons first find the location and size of the tumor with a brain scan, then use the Gamma Knife tool to focus radiation beams precisely on that target.

Each radiation beam by itself has no effect; only where the beams meet, on where the beams meet, on the target, do they work by destroying the tissue. This precision means that healthy brain tissue surrounding a tumor is not affected by the procedure.

Related Links

Technical Overview

Research the history and technical details of the Gamma Knife system.

Patient Story

Val Gatlin Patient Story

Research and Technical Info

gamma SOM