Q&A Sessions: Frequently Asked Questions
Read the answers to the questions most frequently
asked by our Penn Gamma Knife® Center at
Pennsylvania Hospital patients:
is Gamma Knife radiosurgery?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a precise and powerful treatment for brain disorders.
It is noninvasive, effective and safe. This makes it the optimal choice for treating
a wide variety of conditions including benign or malignant brain tumors, blood
vessel malformations, trigeminal neuralgia (also called tic douloureux) and tremor.
There are other benefits to Gamma Knife
radiosurgery. Pre-treatment preparation
and the actual radiosurgery are performed
in one day. Most patients can return to
their normal routines in a day or so. In
addition, radiosurgery is less expensive
than conventional neurosurgery. It eliminates
the need for lengthy hospitalization, medications
Gamma Knife radiosurgery right for me?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery can successfully treat patients with a variety of disorders. Click
here to view this list of disorders >>
Gamma Knife radiosurgery safe?
More than 30,000 patients safely undergo Gamma Knife radiosurgery each year.
The method has been used worldwide since 1968. Gamma Knife radiosurgery allows
patients to quickly return to their normal routines. In most cases, only a single
procedure is necessary.
Our experienced Pennsylvania Hospital
Gamma Knife team provides patients with
maximum safety and efficacy. Skilled pre-treatment
planning and the radiation's focused delivery
method lead to improved patient outcomes,
enhanced quality-of-life and virtually
nonexistent damage to healthy brain tissue.
does the Gamma Knife work?
Strictly speaking, the Gamma Knife is not a knife. It is a method of radiosurgery
that delivers extremely focused beams of cobalt radiation to precise targets
in the brain –
as many as 201 individual beams. Individually,
the beams are too weak to damage healthy tissue.
Together, they converge to deliver powerful treatment
to a single point.
Another term for this type of noninvasive
neurosurgery is "stereotactic"
radiosurgery. This refers to directing
radiation to a specific focal point using
an external, three-dimensional frame of
reference -- such as the head frame used
in Gamma Knife radiosurgery.
can I expect before my procedure?
Your physician and our Gamma Knife team members will discuss the radiosurgery
with you before the procedure takes place. Since Gamma Knife radiosurgery is
noninvasive, it is not necessary to shave or cut your hair.
can I expect during the procedure?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery planning and treatment are performed on the same day.
Treatment includes three phases: fitting the head frame, procedure planning and
Fitting the head frame
One of the key components in Gamma Knife
radiosurgery is what is called the
stereotactic head frame. The frame
allows the physician to accurately
pinpoint the area within your brain
that will be treated. The frame is
lightweight and attaches to the head
with four screws, which ensures that
the radiation beams are precisely directed
to the target. In addition, the frame
prevents the head from moving during
imaging and treatment. A local anesthetic
will be applied where the screws are
to be attached.
Once the head frame is in place, images
will be taken of your brain. This imaging
may include magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI), computed tomography (CT) or angiography.
Imaging will determine the exact size,
shape and position of the target within
The next stage is radiosurgical planning.
Once the images have been taken, you
are allowed to rest while the Gamma
Knife physicians develop a precise
radiosurgical plan. The plan is made
using a specially designed computer
that helps calculate how the radiosurgical
procedure should be performed. This
generally takes one to two hours. During
this time you can rest, watch television,
read and use the restroom. The stereotactic
head frame will remain attached.
The radiosurgical procedure
Once the radiosurgical plan is completed,
the actual radiosurgical procedure
can begin. You will lie down on the
procedure couch and the head frame
will be attached to a helmet. You will
be awake throughout and will be able
to communicate with the Gamma Knife
team through an audio and video connection.
We will be monitoring you at all times.
The procedure is silent and painless.
The procedure time will last a few minutes
to more than an hour, depending on the
size and shape of the targeted area.
can I expect after my procedure is complete?
Most patients should be able to return to their normal routines within a day
or so. Some patients may be required to lie quietly for several hours after treatment
or stay overnight for observation.
follow-up care is necessary?
Follow-up is key when you've had Gamma Knife radiosurgery. That is because the
effects of the radiosurgery occur over a period of weeks or months. Treatment
is designed to stop the growth of tumors or lesions over a period of time. It
is important that you stay in contact with your physician to determine progress
of your treatment. This may involve follow-up imaging such as MRI, CT or angiography.
there any side effects?
Some patients may experience a mild headache or minor swelling where the head
frame was attached. Your doctor will discuss any potential side effects.
will be involved in my procedure?
The Gamma Knife team at Pennsylvania Hospital brings the expertise and resources
of the region's top neurosurgery team.
Our Gamma Knife Team
Pennsylvania Hospital's multidisciplinary
Gamma Knife Center team includes
expert neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists,
otorhinolaryngologists, physicists, radiation
oncologists and specialized nurses and
technicians. The team works together
to develop and execute optimal treatment
for each patient. Crucial follow-up care
is provided by team members working closely
with your own physician.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery covered by insurance?
Radiosurgery typically is reimbursed by most insurance companies, PPOs, HMOs
and Medicare when indicated.
Gamma Knife and Leksell Gamma
Knife are U.S. federally registered trademarks
of Elekta Instrument S.A., Geneva, Switzerland.
Photo credits: Susan Pardys, Elekta, Inc.