We always like to keep our ear to the ground when it comes to learning about the newest advancements in the world of neurosurgery. Not too long ago we shared the story of the smart biopsy needle that is making it easier for neurosurgeons to take care of difficult brain tumors, and now we’re learning of another revolutionary tool that doctors may soon be able to add to their treatment arsenal. Today, we take a closer look at the Gamma Knife.
The Gamma Knife is an advanced radiation therapy option for the treatment of cancer in children and adults. Despite its name, the Gamma Knife isn’t actually a knife – It’s a tool that shoots highly focused gamma rays into the body to cut or destroy tumor or cancer cells. By sending a precise and concentrated dosage of gamma radiation, doctors are able to destroy the damaged cells without hurting the healthy cells nearby.
Gamma Knife Treatment
The gamma knife is used to treat a number of different conditions, including:
- Brain tumors
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Nerve disorders causing chronic pain
- Abnormal blood vessel formation
The Gamma Knife is slowly being introduced into different neurological centers around the world, and more than 70,000 patients were treated with the device last year alone.
How It Works
The procedure isn’t completely non-invasive, but it’s much less taxing on a patient than a traditional craniectomy. According to a doctor who has performed the operation, the patient is expected to arrive at the center a few hours prior to the operation. A metal frame is pinned into the patient’s skull and a small opening is made in the scalp so the doctor can access the skull, which will remain intact. The patient is then placed into a machine – similar to an MRI machine – and music of their choice is played to help them relax. The surgeon then turns on the device and shoots the concentrated rays into the targeted area of the brain over the course of the next 45-90 minutes. Once the procedure is complete, the metal frame is carefully removed, the patient is sent to a recovery room, and they are almost always allowed to leave the later that day.
The tool is unique because when performed correctly, it can eliminate the need for invasive surgery into the skull. Problems can be taken care of all while leaving the skull intact, which greatly reduces recovery time and the likelihood of complications. We hope that we’ll get the chance to see one of these devices in action in the near future, and if it continues to prove successful, that they continue to find their ways into neuro clinics in Minnesota.