Why is it called a Gamma Knife?

The Swedish inventor, Professor Lars Leksell, coined this term because the machine utilizes Gamma radiation from a cobalt source to destroy tumors or treat other brain pathologies. It acts like a surgeon’s scalpel, thus “the Knife” in its ability to precisely conform the radiation to a tumor shape. The Gamma Knife was invented in 1968 in Sweden where the first clinical treatment was delivered. The first U.S. unit was installed in 1988 at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Duma has been performing gamma knife procedures for more than 10 years, on more than 1,800 patients.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery at the moment not on experimental stages at all. It was approved by the FDA in 1988 and has been used to successfully treat more than 250,000 patients worldwide at state-of-the-art treatment cancer centers.
The Gamma Knife is used to treat brain metastases (tumors that started in the body and spread to the brain) such as lung cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, etc. It is used to treat benign tumors such as meningiomas and acoustic neuromas. It is also used for treatment of Arteriovenous Malformations (AVMs). The pain syndrome of trigeminal neuralgia, and the tremor of Parkinson’s disease may also be treated with Gamma Knife. Finally, the most malignant tumors of the brain, the glioblastoma multiforme, or anaplastic astrocytomas, as well as a number of other primary tumors of the brain, can be treated. For tumors, the very intense dose of radiation directed precisely to the tumor, causes the DNA and proteins in the cell to render themselves unable to divide. The tumor cells can then no longer live, and slowly die over time. The waste is then removed by circulating white blood cells. For AVMs, the radiation causes the blood vessels to thicken and scar until flow ceases. For trigeminal neuralgia, the protective covering or insulation around the pain nerves is destroyed, thus making the nerve unable to conduct an impulse of pain.
And although can treat certain head and neck tumors, the Gamma Knife cannot treat any pathology below the neck. The Gamma Knife treatment starts early in the morning (usually 6:30 a.m.) and is over by noon. After the procedure, the patient eats lunch and is then able to be discharged home or admitted overnight for observation, depending upon the clinical condition being treated. The actual time inside the Gamma Knife varies from about 10 minutes to 90 minutes. And because of the need for extreme accuracy in treating anything in the brain, a special frame is attached to the skull using four pins. The area of the pins is injected with local anesthetic (Lidocaine) and the pins are placed with the patient under sedative anesthesia. Therefore, most patients have no recollection of the frame being placed and have no pain at all. The frame is removed painlessly at the end of the procedure. These all depend upon the area of the brain of a patient’s pathology. In general, we have a 6% risk of temporary neurologic deficit, and a 3% risk of permanent neurologic deficit. This means that 97% of the treatments using Gamma Knife have no permanent side effects at all. These statistics are far superior to those of open craniotomy (brain surgery) for similar pathologies. And because of the superior results and short hospital stays using Gamma Knife technique instead of craniotomy, essentially all insurance companies including Medicare and MediCal cover the procedure. Check with your insurance provider regarding your specific coverage.