Brain tumors, arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), pituitary tumors. Brain surgery, which comes with risk of infection and damage, used to be the only chance you had for treatment. And if that surgery failed, you did not really have another option.
Enter Gamma Knife radiosurgery, a one-day treatment that uses focused radiation, not a scalpel, to heal tumors and other disorders in the brain. When traditional surgery fails or is not an option in the first place, Gamma Knife radiosurgery offers a safe and effective alternative.
But how do you know if your condition makes you a candidate for Gamma Knife radiosurgery? Depending on where you live, you could be far away from a doctor with the expertise to answer that question, let alone offer the procedure.
Which is why Jason Sheehan, MD, director of the internationally recognized and pioneering Gamma Knife Center at UVA, answers questions online.
The patients hail from places as far as India; the questions come from every walk of life. From a husband wondering if his wife’s memory loss will worsen to a daughter asking about her father’s recovery chances, Sheehan’s “Ask a Doctor” provides an often-dramatic glimpse into the wide range of issues people face and the complexity involved with assessing them.
For more insight into how “Ask a Doctor” serves patients, I decided to ask Dr. Sheehan myself.
When did you get the idea for the “Ask a Doctor” column? What inspired you?
The idea for the column arose from discussions that Dr. Steiner (one of the first Gamma Knife developers) and I had. We recognized that patients and referring physicians from throughout the world wanted to ask questions and refer cases to our center. This modern solution facilitated regional, national and international communication.
What kinds of questions do you get?
We receive a wide range of questions. Some relate to specific patients with conditions for which our center is known to have specific expertise. Others are general questions related to new referrals or follow-up information. Physicians have also contacted us asking for advice about how to perform a specific gamma knife approach. Questions usually are submitted from patients themselves, family members and physicians.
Are there any questions you’ve received that particularly challenged or interested you?
We frequently receive questions from family members seeking the best care for their family members. They recognize the outstanding reputation of our Gamma Knife team and wish to travel the extra distance to receive care here.
On the same day last week, we treated a patient that traveled from India and another that came from New Zealand. These patients both made contact through the web. The patients traveled thousands of miles and passed over countless radiosurgery centers to come for care from our experienced team.
How has this kind of interaction affected your work?
The interactions have lead to our team members developing rewarding relationships with physicians and patients throughout the world.
Who would you encourage to seek out Gamma Knife treatment or to ask a question about gamma knife?
I encourage patients with brain disorders to contact us. The Gamma Knife team at UVA is glad to offer a second opinion to patients. Referring physicians and family members of patients can also write us with questions.