Rhode Island Hospital
Providence, RI 02903
Gamma Knife treatment requires the combined skills of a neurosurgeon, a radiation oncologist, a neuroradiologist, a medical physicist, an imaging technologist, a specially trained nurse and a radiation therapist.
Each patient wears a lightweight head frame that attaches to a helmet, through which 201 beams of gamma radiation will focus precisely at the target. Only the exact tissue being treated receives a strong dose of radiation, while the surrounding tissue remains unharmed.
The Gamma Knife delivers radiation that actually destroys the DNA in tumor cells so they can no longer grow and reproduce. When the cells mature and are unable to replicate themselves, they simply die. Because these dying cells are unable to be replaced, the tumor stops growing.
The speed with which the treatment takes effect depends on the type of tumor (its tissue type, or histology). Fast-growing tumors, such as metastases, respond very quickly (weeks), whereas slow-growing tumors, such as acoustic neuromas, have slower response times (months, sometimes years). The Gamma Knife can be used alone or in combination with surgery or radiotherapy.
What should patients expect?