When I hear the words ‘Gamma Knife’ I think of this mega-sized butcher knife. But of course, that is not really what it is!
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a type of radiation therapy used to treat tumors, vascular malformations and other abnormalities in the brain.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is not surgery in the traditional sense because there are no incisions.
Instead, Gamma Knife radiosurgery uses specialized equipment to focus approximately 200 tiny beams of radiation on a tumor or other target with sub-millimeter accuracy. Although each beam has very little effect on the brain tissue it passes through, a strong dose of radiation is delivered to the place where all the beams meet together. The precision of brain stereotactic radiosurgery results in minimal damage to healthy tissues surrounding the target. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is usually a one-time only therapy completed in a single day. Currently, there are only two gamma knife centers in Mexico, one being in Guadalajara.
Why is it performed? Gamma Knife radiosurgery is often a safer alternative to standard brain surgery (neurosurgery), which requires incisions in the skull, membranes surrounding the brain and brain tissue. This type of radiation treatment is usually performed when:
- A tumor or other abnormality in the brain is too hard to reach with standard neurosurgery.
- A person isn’t healthy enough to undergo standard surgery.
- A person prefers a less invasive treatment.
In some cases, Gamma knife radiosurgery may have a lower risk of side effects compared with other types of radiation therapy.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is most commonly used to treat the following conditions:
- Brain tumors (not all tumors, depending on size and characteristics).
- Recurrence of previously operated brain tumors.
- Arteriovenous malformations
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Acoustic neuroma
- Pituitary tumors
What is the actual procedure? The procedure may take less than an hour up to about four hours, depending on the size and shape of the target. During the procedure the person does not feel the radiation, no noises from the machine, speak with the physicians via a microphone. It is usually an outpatient procedure, but the entire process takes about a day.
If you think that this type of surgery would be an option for you, or a loved one, please send me an email in order to communicate with Dr. Luis Robles, our neurosurgeon based here in Puerto Vallarta and who works closely with the Gamma Knife location in Guadalajara. He is bilingual, highly respected and extremely experienced.
Here’s to an astronomical week!