How the gamma knife works and how it benefits cancer patients
A new gamma knife is an example of leading-edge technology that makes Intermountain Medical Center one of the most advanced hospitals in America.
The gamma knife radiation delivery system is the gold standard in treating small cancers of the head and neck. Intermountain Medical Center's Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion is a reengineered model that provides faster, more flexible cancer treatment by allowing cancer experts to target areas of the head and upper neck that were difficult to treat with previous versions of the gamma knife.
Intermountain Medical Center is the second medical center in the United States that offers the advanced version of gamma knife technology.
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The purpose of the gamma knife
Gamma knife technology allows physicians to treat brain tumors and cancers of the head and neck without surgery and without a scalpel. The multi-million dollar machine is a radiation delivery system for non-surgical treatment for most benign and malignant brain tumors that otherwise can't be reached because of their size and location.
The Gamma Knife Perfexion directs 192 precise beams of radiation toward the treatment target within the brain, which allows for effective, yet non-invasive treatment of lesions inside the skull, without surgery or even the need to shave the hair.
What happens to a patient during a gamma knife treatment
During gamma knife treatment, a patient is given local anesthetic and fitted with a head frame that prevents the head from moving and directs the radiation beams with more precision. An MRI or CT scan is then performed to determine the size, shape, and position of the target lesion. While the patient rests, the neurosurgeon and radiation oncologist will define the intricate path the radiation beams must travel for a safe and successful treatment.
During treatment, patients are awake and able to communicate; if they choose, they can listen to music to help them relax. Treatment takes anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour, depending on the size and shape of the target.
When the session is over the head frame is removed, and the patient looks no different, feels no different, and can go home that day. They can return to their normal routine in just a day or so.
Benefits of the Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion
The Perfexion improves upon previous technology by delivering three main benefits:
- It increases the ability of medical experts to deliver exactly the right dose of radiation to exactly the right target.
- It expands the treatment range so lesions in the base of skull and even the cervical spine can be treated.
- It makes treatment more comfortable for patients and allows for shorter treatment times.
Gamma knife technology has been used for 30 years to treat over 350,000 patients around the world. Intermountain Medical Center's new gamma knife is not only the first gamma knife in Utah, it's also the most accurate, most thorough, most advanced version of the technology.