What is Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?
Gamma knife radiosurgery is a precise, noninvasive and effective radiation therapy procedure which has been proven highly effective in the treatment of certain malignant and benign brain tumors, arteriovenous malformations and trigeminal neuralgia. In addition to these conditions, Gamma Knife treatments for Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, and intractable pain are also promising according to research results. The Gamma Knife treatment doesn’t contain any blade or incision. During the treatment, focused individual beams (as many as 201) of cobalt radiation are precisely delivered to well-defined targets in the brain. However, the beams are individually too weak to damage healthy tissues. They converge together to deliver powerful treatment to one or several specific points.
In this article, we will focus on the main 5 subjects you should know about Gamma Knife treatment in order you to get to know this revolutionary and promising technology more.
Gamma Knife vs. CyberKnife
Both Gamma Knife and CyberKnife are stereotactic (SRS) treatment technologies; however, Gamma Knife is limited to treating cancerous areas above the ear and in the cervical spine whereas CyberKnife treatment is capable of treating cancer throughout the entire body, including structures that move with breathing.
The essential difference between Gamma Knife and CyberKnife is that Gamma Knife procedure requires a large protective metal frame with screws to be put onto the patient’s head during the treatment while CyberKnife provides the patient a relatively more comfortable treatment process as the patient lies on the treatment couch and the system moves quickly around the patient to update the accurate position of the patient’s body. However, while Gamma Knife treatment delivered during one session, CyberKnife may be delivered single or multiple treatments, possibly over a period of days to weeks.
Both Gamma Knife and CyberKnife treatments use external radiation to kill cancerous cells and shrink tumors without damaging healthy tissues. While both CyberKnife and Gamma Knife can precisely treat cancerous and noncancerous tumors, CyberKnife has a distinct advantage as it can treat tumors in the unstable organs that move with breathing by using real-time X-ray images of the targeted areas. Gamma Knife, on the contrary, can only treat cancers in the brain and cervical spine, where the movement has to be stabilized. Recent studies show that Gamma Knife radiosurgery treatment can lengthen life for patients with certain malignant brain tumors as well.
Finally, if it is necessary to compare their costs, we can say that Gamma Knife treatment cost is around €9000 which is a bit higher than the cost of CyberKnife treatment which is around €7000.
What are the Possible Complications of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?
Serious complications of Gamma Knife radiation therapy such as local loss of hair, visual loss and hearing loss (dependent on diagnosis and areas treated) are generally very rare. Some patients may experience one or some of the following side effects: A slight headache, facial pain, minor swelling, delayed seizures, mild nausea or numbness around where the metal head frame was placed.
However, these common side effects are most likely to resolve over a day or two. According to a clinical study to follow-up long term side effects of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, the results show that the effectiveness of this treatment together with its low complication rate makes it a suitable for anyone, regardless of age and general health.
Is Gamma Knife Treatment Safe?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is safer than many existing open-skull procedures with general anesthesia. As vital for all radiation therapy procedures, correct calculation of the amount of radiation to deliver to the cancerous area is essential. Since the beams are fully focused on the target tissue, the effect on the brain or other critical nerve and blood vessel structures is minimized in Gamma Knife procedure.
Besides, a qualified medical physicist should assure that imaging and treatment planning computers and software are correct and able to operate properly. The mechanical functions of the monitoring and treating machines are tested regularly to ensure the safety of the patients and the medical staff.
Patients are usually discharged later the same day after Gamma Knife treatment. You may resume your normal activities and regular daily nutrition as you feel able.
What is the Expected Outcome with Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?
The benefit of Gamma Knife treatment will occur over time because radiosurgery aims to stop the growth of tumors or lesions, which means that the effect of the treatment will be seen over a period of weeks and months. Besides, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is such a significantly precise and effective treatment method that it has been able to achieve tumor control in more than 90 percent of cases at the 10-year follow-up. A clinical study of the long-term experience of gamma knife radiosurgery for benign skull base meningiomas shows that this treatment provided an excellent long term tumor control rate associated with maintenance of neurological function and low morbidity.
This content is edited by Flymedi Medical Editors in April 2019.