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Medical Advances

Surgery Without the Knife

Q and A on Gamma Knife® Radiosurgery

Gamma Knife® radiosurgery is considered the gold standard for stereotactic radiosurgery, a form of radiation therapy that focuses high energy on a small area of the body. The incredibly precise treatment has the longest track record of success in treating brain lesions with a single high dose of radiation.

Gamma Knife® is a unique treatment option for tumors previously thought inoperable. It can significantly improve quality of life for patients with brain metastasis, which is cancer that has spread to the brain from another part of the body.

Now, Northwestern Medicine is bringing Gamma Knife® to the western suburbs. Vinai Gondi, MD, a radiation oncologist at Northwestern Medicine and Co-Director of the Brain and Spine Tumor Center at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, offers some insight into this treatment.

What is Gamma Knife® radiosurgery?

Gamma Knife® is the most advanced form of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) currently available for the treatment of brain tumors and other disorders of the brain. More precise than other forms of SRS, this non-invasive procedure is sometimes referred to as “surgery without a knife” because it does not require an open incision like traditional brain surgery.

How does Gamma Knife® radiosurgery work?

Gamma Knife® uses radiation to treat tumors and diseases in a single session without any incisions. The exposure is brief with minimal risk of injury to the healthy tissue surrounding the area being treated. The sub-millimeter precision makes the technology ideal for brain tumors and non-cancerous brain disease.

What makes Gamma Knife® radiosurgery a breakthrough treatment?

Gamma Knife® is so precise that it can target lesions of less than four centimeters with minimal risk to nearby tissue. This technology offers hope to patients who were once considered untreatable or very high-risk surgical candidates.

Who can benefit from Gamma Knife® radiosurgery?

Patients with brain metastases or tumors that are hard to reach with conventional neurosurgery can benefit greatly from Gamma Knife®, as can patients who are not candidates for standard surgery because of illness or advanced age. The treatment can also be used for benign brain diseases such as arteriovenous malformation (AVM), trigeminal neuralgia, acoustic neuroma, pituitary adenoma, meningioma and certain movement disorders.

Can Gamma Knife® radiosurgery improve quality of life during cancer treatment?

Yes, significantly. For patients with brain metastases, Gamma Knife® can help to manage symptoms by shrinking or stopping the growth of new and existing brain lesions.

What are the side effects of Gamma Knife® radiosurgery treatment?

Side effects are minimal, and patients can often resume their normal activities and return to work within 24 hours of the two- to four-hour treatment session. Since Gamma Knife® SRS does not require an open incision like traditional brain surgery, patients experience little discomfort and minimal risk of complications.

What is the history of Gamma Knife® radiosurgery treatment and brain tumor specialty care at Northwestern Medicine?

Northwestern Medicine has offered Gamma Knife® treatment since 1998, when the Gamma Knife® Radiosurgery Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago first opened. Consistently updating to stay on the leading edge of Gamma Knife® radiosurgery technology, Northwestern Medicine offers expanded radiosurgery treatment outside the brain.

The Brain and Spine Tumor Center at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital has a long history of using stereotactic radiosurgery, and we added Gamma Knife® SRS capabilities in April 2015.

How does the addition of Gamma Knife® at Central DuPage Hospital and Delnor Hospital benefit the communities of the western suburbs?

By offering Gamma Knife® in the western suburbs, Northwestern Medicine is providing patients with close and convenient access to one of the most advanced and comprehensive cancer care programs available in the United States We offer leading-edge treatment options such as proton therapy, intraoperative MRI and TomoTherapy, and the addition of Gamma Knife® enables the Brain and Spine Tumor team to select the best tools available to treat each patient.

The addition of Gamma Knife® SRS technology also significantly enhances our SRS capabilities, by offering radiosurgery patients improved treatment time and comfort while expanding the number and breadth types of tumors and diseases that can be treated.