Gamma Knife Surgery utilizes a non-invasive instrument, the “Gamma Knife”, to deliver concentrated radiation to a very specific region of the body, a procedure known as “radiosurgery”. This treatment has many applications for cancer, particularly malignant brain tumors and metastasized cancers, such as lung, breast, and certain colon cancers, along with metastasized melanoma. It is also used to treat acoustic neuroma (also known as vestibular Schwannoma), a benign tumor affecting hearing and balance, and trigeminal neuralgia, an extremely painful disorder affecting the nerves of the face. Because there is only one Gamma Knife in the Twin Cities, Metropolitan Neurosurgery partners with the University of Minnesota Medical Center to offer this procedure.
As it requires no incision or anesthetic, the risks and recovery time of Gamma Knife surgery are significantly lower than those in invasive surgery options. It is not the right treatment in every case, but where it can be used, its benefits are notable. For trigeminal neuralgia, risks such as spinal fluid leak and deafness are removed when a Gamma Knife is used, and it also typically does not require so much as an overnight at the hospital. With an acoustic neuroma, it offers a world of difference from the surgical procedure, which requires a week in the hospital and poses risks such as meningitis. And surgery for a brain tumor or metastasized cancer generally involves at least two weeks in the hospital, not to mention the risks associated with opening the skull to perform such an operation.
During a Gamma Knife procedure, the patient is awake, and because there is no preparation beyond the patient’s stabilization in a halo apparatus, you are free to eat and talk with friends and family in the waiting area while the doctor and staff prepare. During this time, your Metropolitan Neurosurgery doctor will examine the MRI which is taken after the halo is positioned, to precisely determine the location undergoing treatment. This halo achieves the robust accuracy associated with stereotactic (referring to the use of advanced 3D location technology) radiosurgery, targeting the area being treated and leaving the rest of the brain relatively untouched. The 201 beams of the Gamma Knife focus their energy on a single point, similar to spokes on a bike wheel connecting to the hub. Unlike the whole-brain radiation traditionally used to treated metastases in the brain, this radiosurgery delivers only 0.5% of the total radiation to regions outside the affected area.
Because Gamma Knife surgery spares the vast majority of the brain from any effects of radiation, you will not lose your hair and other side effects of radiation are all but negated. Treatments are typically as brief as 30 minutes, but in some cases as much as 4 hours is required. Even if your overall health is not good, as an outpatient surgery, the potential impact on you is greatly reduced and thus this procedure is available even when traditional surgeries are not. Metropolitan Neurosurgery performs Gamma Knife procedures only once a week at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, in partnership with Minneapolis Radiation Oncology, so it must be scheduled well in advance. Consult with one of our neurosurgeons if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a condition treatable by Gamma Knife surgery. We would be honored to help you determine if this treatment will offer the best possible results in your unique situation.