Can Gamma Knife treatment help me?
If you've been diagnosed with a brain disorder, you may be feeling confused and overwhelmed, especially if your condition requires surgery. You're probably weighing the benefits — and the risks — and wondering if surgery is your only option.
The Boston Gamma Knife Center at Tufts Medical Center offers a safe, painless alternative for treating a wide range of brain cancers, benign tumors, facial pain and vascular malformations. Our team of neurosurgeons can help you decide if traditional brain surgery is the right choice or if you might be a candidate for noninvasive Gamma Knife treatments.
Gamma Knife treatment: Brain surgery without the knife
The term "Gamma Knife" can be misleading. We do not use knives or make incisions of any kind. Instead, our state-of-the-art technology focuses 192 beams of gamma radiation on your brain tumor or abnormality. The treatment location receives an effective dose of radiation, but the beams pass harmlessly through the nearby healthy tissue.
The technology is complex, but the benefits are easy to understand. Because there are no incisions, Gamma Knife treatments are safer than traditional brain surgery. There's less risk of infections, complications or side effects. Many of our patients are relieved to learn that treatments are often performed in a single outpatient visit with just local anesthesia and that they'll likely be able to resume their normal activities within a few days.
As the first and only Gamma Knife Center in northern New England, we've helped treat thousands of people with conditions such as:
- Malignant tumors such as metastatic cancers and some primary brain cancer
- Benign tumors of the pituitary gland or cranial nerves (such as vestibular schwannomas)
- Vascular malformations including arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)
- Functional disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia
Meet Dr. Julian Wu, Chief of the Division of Neuro-Oncology
Great care starts with great care providers — and Julian Wu, MD is one of the best. His expertise is backed by over 20 years of experience with radiosurgical techniques. In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranks him among the top 1% of neurosurgeons in the nation. Dr. Wu is also professor of neurosurgery at the prestigious Tufts University School of Medicine, where he trains future leaders in the field.
Dr. Wu and center co-director John Mignano, MD, PhD are committed to pushing the boundaries of Gamma Knife technology to improve patient care. For example, their team pioneered a progressive therapeutic approach for treating brain cancer: Following traditional brain surgery with Gamma Knife treatment can reduce local re-occurrence of metastatic tumors from about 50 to 15 percent or less — without the troubling side effects of whole-brain radiation.
Our doctors aren't the only experts on the team. Registered nurse Paula Lucas and lead radiosurgery therapist Stacey Francis both work closely with Gamma Knife patients. They'll guide you through your treatment and recovery, so you can feel confident that you're in good hands each step of the way.
What Happens During Gamma Knife Surgery?
We strive to make your Gamma Knife surgery comfortable and anxiety-free. When you first arrive, you'll meet with our nurse to prepare for the procedure and discuss any questions you may have.
In the treatment room, you'll receive local anesthesia, and our therapist will attach a lightweight frame to your head. The frame helps us pinpoint the treatment location and helps keep you as still as possible during the procedure. You may feel slight pressure while the frame is being fixed in place.
You'll then have an MRI so we can review the treatment location and enter the precise coordinates into our state-of-the-art treatment-planning software. After the MRI, you can rest while your care team develops a treatment plan specific to your needs. This can take one to two hours.
Once your treatment plan is ready, you'll lie down on the Gamma Knife couch, which moves automatically into the machine. You'll be awake and able to talk to us during the entire procedure. While you're having a treatment — they typically last 15 to 60 minutes — you'll most likely feel nothing unusual. Afterwards, you may experience slight swelling or a headache.
Who Is a Candidate for Gamma Knife Treatment?
Gamma Knife surgery can be a safe option for patients who are too frail for traditional surgery. It is also extremely effective for treating very small tumors or tumors in hard-to-reach places. As a leading center for radiosurgical research, our team has learned that patients may also benefit from Gamma Knife treatment if they have had:
- Conventional brain surgery to treat tumors
- Interventional neuroradiology (for treatment of vascular disease)
- Conventional radiation therapy
- Conventional chemotherapy
Your neurosurgeon will work closely with you, your referring physician and other specialists at Tufts MC to determine if Gamma Knife radiosurgery is the right choice for you.