Gamma knife surgery also known as stereotactic radio surgery is used for treating brain disorders such as brain tumors and Arteriovenous malformations. This surgery is a form of non-invasive treatment for patients who cannot undergo traditional brain surgery. This technology was originally developed by Swedish neurosurgeon, Lars Leskell in 1967 at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.
The gamma device contains around 201 cobalt-60 sources of approximately 30 curies, placed in a heavily shielded assembly in a circular manner. The device emits out radiation through a target point in the brain of the patient. The victims are supposed to wear a specialized helmet (that is fixed surgically to their brains) so that the brain tumor remains stationary to the direction of rays. There is almost no effect on the surrounding areas of the tissue and most of the patients return home within an hour of the operation.
After attaching the frame, the patient receives a CT, MRI, or angiographic scan. The data recorded thereafter is transferred to the state-of-art planning computer, thereby enabling the treatment team to tailor the radiation dose for conforming specifically to the lesion volume. After the completion of the treatment plan, the patient is placed on the knife couch and a collimator helmet is placed over the head of the patient. Then, the patient is treated with the 201 sources of Cobalt 60 housed in the Gamma Knife. Around 202 doses of gamma radiations come together at the target area, sufficient enough to destroy the malignant and benign brain tumors!
The gamma rays can be used to treat any part of the brain and hence this technology is quite useful for targeting the base or lower portions of the brain- which cannot be achieved by the conventional open surgery! Moreover, the knife combines data from three-dimensional computer imaging studies and hence is a very well-defined, low-risk and cost effective alternative. This technology is quite cheap as compared to long hospitalization, antibiotic therapy and the rehabilitation processes.
The word “gamma knife” is actually an illusion, because it contains no blade and makes no incision, and is a sophisticated/dedicative instrument for curing brain tumors. Till date, more than 150,000 patients have been treated worldwide and no mortality has been reported till yet! Even though this technology has been in use for over three decades, yet it has ballooned in the last five years. The number of Leksell centers has increased by almost 175 percent in U.S and the number of patients cured by approximately 250 percent.