Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
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Gamma Knife FAQ

What is Gamma Knife Surgery?
Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) is a non-invasive surgical tool used to treat a variety of brain tumors, arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), and other neurological disorders. Rather than making an incision with a scalpel, the gamma knife uses a machine that emits 201 low dose gamma rays through a helmet to converge on a lesion. A single dose of powerful gamma radiation is precisely focused on the treatment target that may kill tumor cells, obliterate AVM vessels or create desired injury to areas involved in abnormal brain function. The normal surrounding brain structures receive a minimal amount of radiation, making GKS a safe treatment option for many patients. For tumors, it stops cell growth. For AVMs, it encourages the cells to grow to fill in the blood vessels. For certain neurological disorders, such as hemifacial spasm or trigeminal neuralgia, it causes a degree of nerve damage to help relieve symptoms.

What are the side effects of Gamma Knife?
Since you remain awake during the entire procedure, side effects from Gamma Knife treatment are minimal. Rarely, patients experience some nausea. If you have a history of seizures, there is also a small chance that you could have a seizure post-treatment. You may have a headache for a few days related to the head frame and the pin sites. You may also develop some swelling in your forehead as a result of the injection of the local anesthetic. None of these symptoms have anything to do with you treatment. With no surgical incisions, there is no risk of hemorrhage or infection.

Who determines if Gamma Knife is a treatment option?
After reviewing your MRI or CT scans, and evaluating your clinical symptoms, a team of neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists determines if Gamma Knife is one of the treatments best suited for your condition. After they have completed their assessment, you will be notified of all of the treatment options available. The final decision will be yours.

Who determines the treatment plan in the Gamma Knife suite?
Neurosurgeons work with radiation oncologists and medical physicists to determine the best map of treatment based on the MRI that you have on that day. Using computers, they develop a variety of treatment plans and the most optimal plan is chosen and applied for your procedure.

Is it dangerous to be exposed to high doses of radiation?
The actual high doses of radiation are all focused on the lesion or target being treated. Other gamma rays are very low as are associated risks.

How long will I be in the hospital?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a day surgery procedure in most cases. You will come to the Health Sciences Centre early in the morning on the day of your treatment and then leave the hospital sometime in the afternoon. Patients from out of town stay in Winnipeg overnight before traveling home. In some instances, you may be admitted overnight.

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