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What Can Patients Expect?

Before Treatment

During Treatment
A patient who is about to undergo Gamma Knife radiosurgery will receive an in-depth consultation from our specialized Gamma Knife team.

On the day of the surgery, patients are fitted with a lightweight head frame that allows physicians to precisely pinpoint the area in the brain to be targeted by radiation. The frame also keeps patients from moving and remains on the patient throughout the procedure. Local anesthetic is applied to the areas where the frame will be attached. Gamma Knife radiosurgery does not require cutting or shaving hair.

How the gamma knife worksWhen the frame is in place, the patient undergoes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), or angiography to create detailed images of the target site within the brain. The Gamma Knife team then develops a customized treatment plan to determine exactly how much radiation to administer, precisely where to focus it, and how long the treatment should take.

Once the plan is ready, treatment begins. The head frame is attached to a helmet and patients recline on a couch that moves into the dome section of the Gamma Knife system. The physicians then move into a control room to administer the radiation; however, they stay in contact with the patient throughout the procedure through audio and video connections. The treatment itself is silent and painless and generally lasts about one hour.

After Treatment

When treatment is complete, the head frame is removed. Most patients go home the same day; in some cases, they’ll be asked to stay overnight in the hospital for observation.

Since the effects of the radiation treatment occur over time, follow-up is essential. Patients return for regular imaging procedures (such as MRI, CT, or angiography) over the next year so physicians can track the gradual effect of the radiation.

Although outcomes vary among patients, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is effective in shrinking, and in some cases eliminating, brain lesions, tumors, and venous malformations. In addition, patients who undergo treatment for movement disorders, epilepsy or pain syndromes such as trigeminal neuralgia will see their symptoms resolve in the weeks after the procedure.


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Need an appointment? Request one online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or call 800-789-PENN (7366) to speak to a referral counselor.

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.

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