What Is Gamma Knife Surgery?

Mar 28, 2022

When exploring treatments for brain tumours and other specific conditions related to brain tissue, one of the specialist options that has been increasingly considered is known as gamma knife surgery, also known as stereotactic radiosurgery.

Contrary to its name, gamma knife surgery does not involve an actual knife, nor is it technically a surgery, but instead is a highly advanced non-surgical treatment used for very specific cases.

Instead, stereotactic radiosurgery is a precise beam of gamma radiation made up of a series of individual weaker beams that are focused on the precise location of a lesion or a tumour so that it does not affect any nearby healthy brain tissue.

Whilst both adults and children can have the treatment, there is a range of factors that your neurologist will consider before prescribing the stereotactic radiosurgery, which includes the size of the area to be treated, overall health and the specific nature of the condition.

Typically, the main conditions that can be treated include:

  • lesions and tumours on the brain,
  • facial pains caused by compressed nerves known as trigeminal neuralgia,
  • a genetic disorder that creates a tangle of abnormal blood vessels known as arteriovenous malformation (AVM),
  • clustered blood vessels at the top of your spinal cord and brain known as cavernoma,
  • specific types of epilepsy.

Typically, whilst the actual gamma knife procedure is relatively short, there are considerable amounts of preparation involved to calibrate the advanced systems that will undertake the radiation process.

The first step involves fitting a lightweight frame to your head to keep it still and ensure the beams are focused accurately, as well as injecting local anaesthetic to ensure the procedure is not painful.

After this is an imaging session, typically using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) to find the position of the lesion or tumour relative to the frame and create an exact treatment plan.

This plan is calculated with the help of an advanced computer system and specialists who will determine the correct treatment for you before the treatment takes place.