What To Expect From Gamma Knife

Mar 31, 2022

If you or a loved one has a brain tumour, you’ll find that there are different types of treatment available, but the most suitable one will depend on the type of tumour, which part of the brain it’s affecting, how big it is, how far it’s spread, the abnormality of the cells and your own general health and fitness.

These days, it’s not always necessary to go down the more traditional surgery route and there are options for less invasive treatment that are just as effective, depending on the kind of tumour you have.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery, carried out here at Amethyst Radiotherapy, is a form of stereotactic radiosurgery, which means that there is no incision required. But it can still be used to treat brain abnormalities, vascular malformation and tumours, using specialist equipment that focuses tiny beams of radiation on their target.

These beams don’t cause any harm to the surrounding brain tissue that they have to pass through, but a high dose of radiation is directed on the target instead, where all the beams of radiation converge.

This makes it a much safer alternative to neurosurgery, where incisions are made in the scalp and the skull is opened before dissection into brain tissue to access the tumour. In some patients, Gamma Knife may have fewer side-effects than other types of radiation and the procedure can be carried out in a single day, delivering even more benefits.

The conditions that Gamma Knife is most commonly used to treat include benign and malignant brain tumours, arteriovenous malformations, trigeminal neuralgia, acoustic neuroma and pituitary tumours.

What to expect

Before the operation, you will be invited for an appointment with a consultant and so you can attend a pre-assessment clinic, where you’ll meet the radiography and nursing staff. Blood samples may be taken at this point. It also gives everyone a chance to visit the centre and ask any questions they may have.

On the treatment day, you’ll meet with the team who will explain the process of the day. You will then be fitted with a stereotactic head frame so the doctor can pinpoint exactly where the target is to be treated.

The frame also stops your head from moving during imaging and treatment. It can be a little uncomfortable but most patients handle it well. A local anaesthetic is used to numb the sites where the frame pins are to be used that hold the frame in place.

You will then be transferred to the imaging team so planning images can be taken. This can take up to 45 minutes. Once the scans have been done, your medical physicist and consultant neuroradiologist will calculate a precise and accurate treatment plan based on the images.

From here, the actual treatment can start. This is similar to having a scan done and you will be awake and able to communicate with the treatment team via an audio and video connection. It is also possible to have breaks during the treatment to make you feel more comfortable, if necessary.

Once the treatment is complete, the head frame will be removed. You may experience a mild headache or some soreness where the frame was attached. The majority of patients go home an hour or two after the treatment has been completed, although you may be kept overnight for observation.