Neuro & Brain
Gamma Knife for AVM or Brain Tumor Treatment
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Gamma Knife radiosurgery, also called stereotactic radiosurgery, is a very precise form of therapeutic radiology. Even though it is called surgery, a Gamma Knife procedure does not involve actual surgery, nor is the Gamma Knife really a knife at all.
What is Gamma Knife?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a type of radiation therapy used for treating tumors and other abnormalities in the brain. In Gamma Knife radiosurgery, specialized equipment focuses
close to 200 tiny beams of radiation on the tumor or other targets. Although each beam has very little effect on the brain tissue, as it passes through, a strong dose of radiation
is delivered to the site where all the beams meet. The precision of Gamma Knife radiosurgery results in minimum damage to healthy tissues surrounding the target. In some of the
cases, Gamma Knife radiosurgery has a lower risk of side effects as compared with other types of radiation therapy. Also, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is very often a safer option than
a traditional brain surgery.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is often a one-time therapy completed in a single day. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a very precise form of radiation therapy that focuses intense beams of
gamma rays with inch-perfect accuracy to treat lesions in the brain. Despite its name, Gamma Knife surgery neither involves an actual knife nor traditional surgery. Gamma Knife
radiosurgery is referred to as a “surgery” because its outcome is similar to that of a surgical procedure. Gamma Knife radiosurgery can be very effective in treating tumors, blood
vessel malformations, and nerve conditions. In each instance, surgeons and radiation oncologists use the Gamma Knife system a bit differently:
• Radiosurgery for tumor treatment works by damaging or destroying the DNA of tumor cells so that these cells cannot grow and reproduce. As the time progress, the brain tumor shrinks.
• For blood vessel malformations, such as an arteriovenous malformation, Gamma Knife treatment gradually closes off the malformed blood vessels.
• In the case of the pain disorder trigeminal neuralgia, where nerves are the target for treatment radiosurgery diminishes the function of improperly acting nerves, thus causing
Why Gamma Knife is done?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is used to treat certain conditions of the brain, many of which could only be treated by open surgery if this option was not available. Gamma Knife
radiosurgery can be used on both children and adults. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a better alternative than a standard brain surgery (neurosurgery), which requires incisions in the
skull, membranes surrounding the brain and brain tissue. This type of radiation treatment is usually done when:
• A tumor or other abnormality in the brain is too hard to reach with standard brain surgery
• A person isn't healthy enough to undergo any standard surgery
• A person opts a less invasive treatment
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is very often used to treat the following conditions:
• Brain tumor: Radiosurgery is very useful in the management of small noncancerous and cancerous brain tumors. Radiosurgery damages the genetic material in the tumor's cells. The
cells lose their ability to reproduce and may die, and the tumor may gradually shrink over time.
• Arteriovenous malformation (AVM): AVMs are abnormal tangles of arteries and veins in the brain. In an AVM, blood flows from the arteries to veins, bypassing smaller blood vessels
(capillaries). AVMs may disrupt the normal flow of blood which leads to bleeding.
Radiosurgery closes the blood vessels and thus destroying the AVM.
• Trigeminal neuralgia: Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder of one or both of the trigeminal nerves, which relay sensory information between your brain and areas of your forehead,
cheek, and lower jaw. This nerve disorder causes disabling facial pain that may feel like an electric shock.
After treatment, many people experience pain relief within a few days to a few months.
• Acoustic neuroma: An acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous tumor that develops along the main balance and hearing nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain. A person can
experience hearing loss, dizziness, loss of balance and ringing in the ear, when the tumor puts pressure on the nerve. As the tumor grows, it can also put pressure on the nerves
which affect sensation and muscle movement in the face. Radiosurgery may help in minimizing the size of an acoustic neuroma or even stop the growth with little risk of permanent
• Pituitary tumors: Tumors of the bean-sized gland at the base of the brain (pituitary gland), can cause various problems. The pituitary gland controls hormones in our body that
control various functions, such as stress response, metabolism and sexual function.
Radiosurgery can be used to shrink the tumor and thereby lessen the disruption of pituitary hormone regulation.
Although Gamma Knife radiosurgery is less invasive than traditional open surgery however there is a possibility that there may be some side effects and risks due to Gamma Knife
• Radiation therapy is not suggested to women who are pregnant. Women of childbearing age may need to provide a urine sample before undergoing Gamma Knife treatment to ensure they
are not pregnant.
• Other side effects include cerebral edema, headache, nausea, numbness or weakness in the face, loss of balance, vision problems, hair loss near the treated area (the hair loss is
generally temporary) and seizures. Medication can be used for above-mentioned side effects. There may be other risks, depending on one’s specific medical condition. Any Discomfort
should be immediately discussed with the physician prior to the procedure.
Early complications or side effects are usually temporary. They may include:
• Fatigue: For the first few weeks after Gamma Knife radiosurgery, the patient may feel fatigue and tiredness.
• Swelling: Swelling in the brain at or near the treatment site can cause a headache, nausea, and vomiting. The doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications (to prevent such
problems or to treat symptoms if they appear.
• Scalp and hair problems: The patient’s scalp may be red, irritated or sensitive at sites where a device is attached to your head during the treatment. Some people might lose a
small amount of hair, but that is for a small amount of time.
It is very rare that people experience late side effects, such as other brain or neurological problems, months after Gamma Knife radiosurgery.
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