Gamma Knife Surgery Facts
- The Gamma Knife was invented in 1968 by Lars Leksell, a Swedish neurosurgeon. He is also credited with inventing radiosurgery, a medical procedure that uses directed beams of radiation, which allows brain surgery without opening the skull.
- The first Gamma Knife in the United States was installed in 1987 in a hospital in Pittsburgh, Penn. Sacred Heart’s Gamma Knife Center opened in November 2006. Sacred Heart is one of 200 centers around the world using this high-tech neurosurgical tool.
- Surgeons use Gamma Knife surgery mainly to treat tumors that are deep seated or situated close to sensitive parts of the brain, such as the spinal cord or areas that control sight and hearing. Physicians also use Gamma Knife surgery to treat other problems in the brain such as certain movement disorders and malfunctioning veins.
- The Gamma Knife is not actually a knife. The Gamma Knife surgeon makes no incisions in the patient’s head. Gamma Knife surgery is noninvasive and involves fewer risks and complications than traditional surgery.
- The Gamma Knife uses 201 highly focused beams of gamma radiation to treat tumors and other disorders in the brain. The radiation source used is called cobalt. The dose of radiation is safe. It is extremely focused to the target in the brain. The dose outside the target is very low and does not affect surrounding healthy brain tissue.
- Skilled Gamma Knife surgeons guide the gamma radiation to a specific target already marked by advanced imaging equipment. Then all 201 beams of radiation converge on the target at the same time to treat it. The procedure is known as stereotactic radiosurgery.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery is usually a one-session treatment. It is called “surgery” because it has such a dramatic and precise effect on the target that the changes are considered surgical.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery does not actually remove or destroy the tumor or lesion. It damages the DNA of the tumor cells. The cells then lose their ability to reproduce.