How Gamma Knife Works

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Radiosurgery: How It Works

Gamma Knife radiosurgery delivers radiation more accurately than conventional radiation. It creates high-energy beams of radiation strong enough to deactivate even the most aggressive tumors.

Gamma Knife also reduces the risk of damage to healthy areas of the brain. We often recommend it for brain tumors in hard-to-reach places.

Choosing UVA for Gamma Knife

An alternative to brain surgery, Gamma Knife radiosurgery uses focused radiation to target tumors, vascular malformations and other abnormalities in the brain.

Before, During & After the Procedure

The procedure is simple and painless.

1. Preparation

We attach a mesh covering or frame to prevent your head from moving. This helps us accurately target the treatment.

2. Imaging

We determine the exact size, shape and position of the target in your brain. You'll have MRI, CT or angiography scans. 

3. Treatment Planning

Your doctor uses your scans to develop a precise treatment plan. No two treatment plans are alike. 

4. Treatment

When treatment starts:

  • You lie down on the treatment couch.
  • The couch moves into the dome section of the unit.
  • The team monitors the procedure at all times.

The treatment lasts 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: Recovery Time

If you had an angiogram, you might have to lie quietly for several more hours. 

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

6. 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 scans.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery FAQs

Will I be asleep for the entire procedure?

No. If you're having a frame-based approach, you'll be taken to the operating room. There, you'll be given a small amount of medicine to put you to sleep. Once you're asleep, the neurosurgeons attach the frame to your head using 4 pins. You'll only be asleep for about 5-10 minutes.

If you're having a mask-based approach, you won't be put to sleep.

Can I breathe with a mask on?

Yes. There are tiny holes in the mesh mask that allow you to breathe. Also, your nose isn't be covered by the mask at all.

Can I choose between having a frame-based approach and a mask-based approach?

Your neurosurgeon should discuss these options with you to decide the best option for your condition. If you have questions about this, ask your care team.

How long does the treatment take?

The treatment lasts from a few minutes to a few hours. The specific amount of time depends on the size, shape, type, and number of lesions that need treatment, as well as the radiation dose needed.

You'll need to stay for at least 45 minutes after the treatment. During that time, the nurse reviews your discharge information and makes any final assessments.

What restrictions will I have after treatment?  

You will not be allowed to drive after treatment, so please make plans to have a ride home.

Will I feel pain or discomfort during the procedure?

No. You won't hear, see, or feel the radiation. The procedure is quiet and painless. If you like, we can play music of your choice in the room during the treatment.

Can you give me medicine for anxiety or pain?

Yes. We can give you medication if you're afraid of being in small spaces (are claustrophobic), very anxious, or in pain. But it's not likely you'll need it. Most people fall asleep during the treatment without any medication.

Can my family be with me during the treatment?

Your family can only be with you in the Gamma Knife Recovery Unit before and after the treatment. They can't be with you during the treatment.

What if I need to go to the bathroom?

You'll have time to use the bathroom before your procedure. If you need to use the bathroom during it, we can pause the procedure, help you to the bathroom, and then continue afterward.

Will my tumor disappear after the procdure?

The effects of your treatment take a little time. We may check your progress with follow-up MRI, CT, or angiography as needed.

Will I glow in the dark afterward or turn green like the Hulk?

These are common myths about radiation treatments. There won't be any radioactivity in your body when you leave the treatment room, and you won't glow or turn any unusual colors. In fact, most people have no side effects at all.

Is the Gamma Knife like a real knife?

No. There are no knives or scalpels involved in the procedure.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery delivers radiation more accurately than regular radiation therapy. It creates high-energy gamma radiation beams strong enough to turn off even some of the fastest growing tumors. 

Does the Gamma Knife radiation also damage brain tissue around the tumor?

No. Gamma Knife procedures typically avoid the usual risks of traditional brain surgery, like:

  • Long hospital stays
  • Lengthy rehabilitation
  • Damage to healthy brain tissue
  • Surgical complications like bleeding, infection, and leaking of fluid from around the brain and spinal cord
  • Dangers of being but to sleep (anesthesia)
  • Other injury or chance of harm to normal brain function

How much does it cost?

You can get a personalized estimate. You may contact us at 434.243.7283 or by email.