CyberKnife FAQs

What is stereotactic radiosurgery?

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a non-invasive (non-surgical) treatment in which high doses of focused radiation beams are delivered from multiple locations outside the body to destroy a tumor or lesion within the body. This procedure does not remove the tumor or lesion. Instead, it destroys tumor cells or stops the growth of active tissue.

Traditional methods relied on a metal frame that was bolted to the skull in order to target the treatment. Because of the need for this frame, radiosurgery was not possible for tumors located outside of the head.

The procedure has been used for more than 30 years on thousands of patients.

How does the CyberKnife® system work? How is it different from other stereotactic radiosurgery systems like Gamma Knife?

Using x-ray image cameras and computer technology similar to that used for cruise missile guidance, the CyberKnife® locates the tumor in the body. A computer program has an arsenal of over 1200 beam angles to choose from to cover the tumor and spare normal tissues for the doctor. Most treatment plans end up using between 100 and 150 beam combinations to kill the tumor.

An x-ray source located on the CyberKnife's robotic arm delivers concentrated beams of radiation to the tumor from multiple positions and angles without damaging healthy surrounding tissue. The range of motion offered by the robotic arm gives it maximum flexibility to reach tumor sites not accessible by other means.

The CyberKnife continually checks and compensates for any patient movement during treatment to ensure accuracy. Because the CyberKnife has pinpoint accuracy, it can deliver higher doses of radiation to treat tumors.

What can the CyberKnife® treat?

CyberKnife® technology is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat tumors and lesions throughout the body. Southwest Washington Medical Center uses CyberKnife to treat benign (non cancerous) tumors, malignant (cancerous) tumors, vascular (blood vessel) malformations and functional disorders.

CyberKnife is used to treat tumors of the:
  • Head
  • Neck
  • Spine
  • Lung
  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Pelvis
  • Other sites as appropriate
What are the benefits for patients?
  • Better quality of life during and after treatment:
    • no need for an restrictive, uncomfortable head frame
    • typically no hospital stays
    • few visits to hospital
    • short or no recovery periods
  • Treatment is available for tumors previously considered inoperable.
  • Reduces the risk of complications that are sometimes associated with conventional surgery
  • Dosage distributions adjusted to minimize radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue
  • Less pain
  • No blood loss
  • No scalpel
  • Mild sedation during treatment
  • Usually performed as an outpatient procedure
  • Lesions that have previously undergone the maximum allowed dose of radiation can be treated
What can I expect during CyberKnife® treatment?

Treatment follows six steps that can be performed on the same day or on separate days:
  • Intake process
  • Consultation
  • Treatment setup
  • Treatment planning
  • Treatment delivery
  • Follow-up
Someone from our CyberKnife® staff is always with you to ensure your comfort and to make sure that the treatment provides maximum results.

Treatment is generally completed in one to five sessions of 60 to 90 minutes each. Most patients feel no pain during the treatment and are able to go home immediately afterward.

Is CyberKnife® covered by insurance?

Similar to surgical treatment, most insurance providers require you to obtain authorization before such procedures. Generally, stereotactic radiosurgery treatments, including CyberKnife®, are usually covered by Medicare and most private insurances.

Where else is CyberKnife® available?

For a listing of sites that are currently treating patients using the CyberKnife® system, visit the Radiosurgery Society's Web site.

How does the CyberKnife work?