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Almost 50 years ago, the Gamma Knife was developed by neurosurgeon Lars Leksell. Leksell found that brain lesions could be treated with this new invention that eliminated the need for an incision – without the risk of bleeding or infection. With the advent of modern imaging techniques, such as the Computerised Tomography(CT) scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI), Gamma Knife Radiosurgery has become increasingly popular. The process has proven cost effective and cases of post-operative infection have been dramatically reduced. So, just how does Gamma Knife Radiosurgery differ from conventional neurosurgery?

The Gamma Knife is not really a knife at all. Rather, it is a machine that fires 201 finely focused beams of radiation into the skull. Individually the beams are too weak to have an effect, but combined they are powerful enough to deliver a high dosage of radiation to the affected area.

There are four basic steps to the procedure as follows:
(1) The patient’s head is fitted with a lightweight frame, which will hold him still during treatment.
(2) An image map is made of the patient’s brain, either by means of a CT scan, an MRI or an angiogram.
(3) Images of the brain are transferred to a computerized treatment planning system, which isolates the target area and determines its coordinates.
(4) The patient’s head is positioned inside a helmet which has 201 portals through which the gamma rays are emitted. Treatment lasts between 15 and 45 minutes. During this time the patient is sedated and feels no pain.

The patient usually recovers very quickly from the surgery, so the patient is normally released from hospital the very next day.

How, though, does Gamma Knife Radiation actually work? The procedure attacks arteriovenous malformations (brain lesions) by causing the cells in the lining of the vessels to multiply. This seals off blood flow to the affected area. In time, the vessels are totally blocked off. The malformation in the brain will subsequently shrink until it is completely dissolved by the body.

There are still some types of tumour that cannot be treated with The Gamma Knife. Yet, this advanced procedure is already making the road to recovery a lot less burdensome for many who are affected by brain tumours and their associated complications.