Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a type of radiotherapy treatment. It’s also called stereotactic radiosurgery. Even though it’s called surgery, a Gamma Knife procedure does not use surgery. It also isn’t a knife. Gamma Knife uses very precise beams of gamma rays to treat an area of disease (lesion) or growth (tumor). It’s most often used in the brain. The beams of gamma radiation send a very intense dose of radiation to a small area without a need to make an incision. Radiosurgery destroys cells so that they can’t grow. A lesion or tumor will shrink in size over time.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is called surgery because the end result is similar to removing a lesion with surgery. The beams of radiation are precisely focused to reach the lesion, with little effect on nearby healthy tissue. The Gamma Knife system is one type of radiosurgery system. Gamma Knife is a brand name.
A Gamma Knife procedure is done by a treatment team. The team is led by a radiation oncologist. This is a specialist in radiation treatment for cancer. The other team members may include:
Gamma Knife treatment in most cases involves these steps:
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is most often used to treat:
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to advise Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Gamma Knife radiosurgery may be used when a brain lesion can’t be reached by standard surgery. Or it may be used when a person can’t have standard surgery, such as craniotomy. The effects of a Gamma Knife treatment occur slowly over time. Because of this, it’s not for people who need immediate effects.
All procedures have some risks. The risks of this procedure may include:
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your healthcare provider. Radiation exposure in pregnancy may lead to birth defects.
Your risks may vary depending on your general health and other factors. Ask your healthcare provider which risks apply most to you. Talk with him or her about any concerns you have.
Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you. Ask him or her any questions you have. You may be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully. Ask questions if anything is not clear.
Tell your healthcare provider if you:
Make sure to:
You may have blood tests, urine tests, or other tests or exams before the procedure. Your healthcare provider will tell you more.
You may have your procedure as an outpatient. This means you go home the same day. Or it may be done as part of a longer stay in the hospital. The way the procedure is done may vary. It depends on your condition and your health care provider's methods. In most cases, the procedure will follow this process:
After the procedure, you will be watched for a period of time. If you had a cerebral angiogram, you will need to lie still with your leg straight for a few hours. This is to make sure the catheter insertion site in your groin is not bleeding.
Once you are able to drink, the IV line will be removed. You may eat and drink as you are able. You may feel some discomfort after the procedure, such as a headache or nausea. Tell your healthcare provider so you can be treated for these effects.
You will most likely go home at the end of the day. You will need to have someone drive you home. If needed, you may stay in the hospital overnight. Once you’re home, you may go back to your normal diet, medicines, and activities, unless your healthcare provider tells you differently. You may be told to avoid strenuous activity for a period of time.
You will most likely be allowed to gently shampoo your hair the day after the procedure. You should not scrub the pin sites on your head until they have completed healed. They will heal in a week or so.
Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the below:
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions after the procedure.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know: