Gamma Knife Radiosurgery

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GammaKnife Radiosurgery

GammaKnife Radiosurgery

Thestakeholders (including scholars and researchers) in the health caresector have been looking for effective methods of deliveringtreatment. The main focus has been to develop the treatmentprocedures that are less invasive, but cost-effective. The discoveryof gamma knife radiosurgery is one of the key breakthroughs thathelped these stakeholders achieve some the aforementioned goals. Thegamma knife, also known as stereotactic radiosurgery, is atherapeutic procedure that utilizes gamma rays that are highlyfocused on specific regions of the brain (Mayo Clinic, 2015). Thistype of treatment is mainly used to address medical conditions thatare associated with the development of abnormalities and tumors inthe brain. The terms “knife” and “surgery” do not bear theliteral meanings. The treatment does not involve actual surgery orthe application of a real knife.


Thedevelopment of the gamma knife radiosurgery is part of the effortsput by researchers to identify therapeutic procedures that can helpthem deal with emerging medical issues. The process of developingthis type of treatment started in the 1945, when the medicalpractitioners found the need to treat growths that affected the brainwithout engaging in invasive techniques (IRSA, n.d). A significantbreakthrough was made in 1967 when scientists developed the firstdevice that was based on the concept of gamma knife radiosurgery andit relied on cobalt-60 as the primary source of energy (ColumbiaUniversity, 2016). Devices that have been developed since the 1960sare based on the principles of the initial gadget. However,researchers have managed to distinguish between different types(including proton beam therapy and linear accelerator system) ofgamma radiosurgery. Currently, nearly all the major health carefacilities have at least one gamma knife radiosurgery since theyappreciate its benefits. The discovery of gamma knife radiosurgery isa significant breakthrough that has facilitated the treatment ofbrain tumors without incision.

Reasonsfor the

Gammaknife procedures are performed with the objective of addressingseveral types of conditions that affect the human brain. According toColumbia University (2016) some of the key conditions that aretreated using the gamma knife radiosurgery include the brain cancer,tumors, acoustic neuroma, arteriovenous, and trigeminal neuralgia.The effectiveness of this therapeutic procedure has been confirmed bythe successful treatment of rigidity and tremor that is associatedwith several conditions, such as chronic pain, epilepsy, and theParkinson’s disease. In addition, radiosurgery is used to treatpituitary tumors that affect the base of the human brain. In most ofthe aforementioned medical conditions, radiosurgery is considered asan alternative form of therapy to the standard treatment thatinvolves the incision of the skull, the brain, and the membrane thatcovers it (Mayo Clinic, 2015).



Beforeundertaking the radiosurgery process, the health care professionalsprepare their clients by supplying them with the necessaryinformation. A written consent is a useful tool that professionalsuse to obtain permission from patients (Columbia University, 2016).Some of the pieces of information that patients are given prior tothe performance of the therapy include the reasons, benefits, andpotential side effects of radiosurgery. In addition, patients areexpected to inform the health care professionals about their medicalhistory, allergies, bleeding disorders, and implants. Patientsshould also inform the professional whether they are pregnant, but aurine test is required in order to enhance the level of certainty. Inmost cases, patients are requested to fast for about eight hours.Some professionals request their clients to wash their hair with aspecial shampoo at least one night before the treatment (ColumbiaUniversity, 2016). Finally, the region around the frame insertion isshaved.

Duringthe radiosurgery procedure and what should be expected

Thetreatment is administered in a series of about 12 steps. In the firststep, the patient is requested to remove all objects (such asclothes, hairpins, and jewelry) that are likely to interfere with thetherapy (Columbia University, 2016). Secondly, an intravenous line isstarted in the arm, with the objective of providing fluids ormedication during the procedure. Third, locations where the pins onthe frame are placed are cleaned thoroughly. Fourth, a localanesthetic is injected at the sites where pins are inserted. Fifth,the head frame is placed in the designated site. Sixth, imaging isperformed in order to identify the specific location of the braintumor. Seventh, a treatment plan is developed using the imagesobtained from step six. Eighth, the patient is taken to a specialroom where the gamma knife equipment is located and prepared foractual treatment. Ninth, a special helmet known as collimator isplaced in the patient’s head. Tenth, the tumor is targeted usingthe gamma knife radiation. This radiation is released in a controlledway using a computer. The treatment session may last for about 2-4hours, but the patient does not feel anything before the sessionbegins. Eleventh, then the patient is removed from the machine oncethe session is over. Lastly, the helmet is removed, pin insertionsites cleaned, and sterile dressing done (Columbia University, 2016).

Followingthe procedure

Thepatient is put under observation by professionals, but the durationvaries with the type of medical condition being treated. Patientssuffering from cerebral angiogram are observed until the catheterinsertion site stops bleeding (Columbia University, 2016). The IVsystem is removed once the patients gain the capacity to take fluidsby the mouth. Some clients report that they feel nausea anddiscomfort, but medication may be given in severe scenarios. Patientsin the outpatient treatment program are allowed to go home, butinstructed to proceed with the medication and avoid strenuousexercise.

Advantagesand Risks

Gammaknife radiosurgery has several advantages over neurosurgery. Forexample, radiosurgery is less invasive, which implies that a highradiation is used to treat tumors without damaging the nearby tissues(IRSA, n.d). In addition, the cost of administering the gamma-basedtherapy is less than neurosurgery by 25-30 % (IRSA, n.d). Inaddition, this type of therapy is associated with lesser discomfortcompared to its alternatives. Moreover, patients do not suffer frominfection and hemorrhage since there is no incision. The absence ofinfection, hemorrhage, and other side effects limit the duration ofhospitalization. Additionally, the application of radiosurgeryfacilitates the treatment of lesions that are inoperable.

Althoughradiosurgery is associated with numerous benefits, it comes with anequal measure of risks. For example, some patients suffer fromheadache, numbness, brain swelling, and nausea (Columbia University,2016). Some of these risks are associated with the size as well asthe location of the zone that is being treated. Other risks includeweakness, hair loss, vision problems, seizure, and the loss ofbalance.

Trainingand Requirements

Anyradiosurgery operation can be considered to be delicate, given thepotential side effects that it has on patients. Consequently,adequate training is required before a health care professional canoperate the gamma knife machine (University of Pittsburgh, 2016). Theprocess of training a radiological technologist may take differentdurations depending on the level of academic. However, it mainlytakes between one and four years. Some of the skills that the traineeis expected to learn from the program include the client careprocedure, protection from excess radiation, imaging principles, andmedical ethics. Apart from these basic skills, other requirements mayinclude a diploma, bachelors, or a postgraduate degree in radiology.


Thediscovery of the gamma knife radiosurgery provided a saferalternative for the treatment of tumors that affect the brain. Thistreatment procedure allows the health care professionals to treatabnormalities within the brain without performing an incision.However, an effective radiosurgery should be performed by trainedradiologists. Although this method of administering tumor therapy isconsidered to be a less invasive approach, patients should beinformed that there are a few side effects (such as headache andnausea) that are associated with radiosurgery.


ColumbiaUniversity (2016). Gamma knife radiosurgery. ColumbiaUniversity.Retrieved August 31, 2016, from

Chen,Y. (2015, April 5). Steriotactic radiosurgery: Gamma knife. Medlineplus.Retrieved August 31, 2016, from

IRSA(n.d). Gamma knife surgery. IRSA.Retrieved august 31, 2016, from

MayoClinic (2015, March 27). Brain stereotactic radiosurgery. MayoClinic.Retrieved August 31, 2016, from

Universityof Pittsburgh (2016). Why gamma knife treatment is superior.Universityof Pittsburgh.Retrieved August 31, 2016, from

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