Frequently Asked Questions
What is Gamma Knife?
The term refers to the “gamma” radiation emitted by the machine and the scalpel-like accuracy with which it treats affected areas of the brain. (No incision is made, no scalpel is used)
Why do I need the head frame attached to my head?
The lightweight stereotactic head frame allows the doctor to accurately pinpoint the target area to be treated. It also prevents your head from moving during imaging and treatment procedures.
Will my insurance cover this procedure?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is reimbursed by most insurance companies, PPOs, HMOs and Medicare
How many treatments will I need?
“Fractionation” is not required, unlike radiotherapy (such as Linac and SRS which may require fractionation) which is often delivered in many fractions over several weeks, GKSRS can nearly always be delivered as a single treatment over the course of less than a day. Multiple hospital visits are therefore avoided.
Is Gamma Knife treatment safe?
The Gamma Knife allows non-invasive brain surgery to be performed with extreme precision while sparing healthy tissues surrounding the targeted treatment area. The risk associated with general anaesthesia is also eliminated. A mild sedative is occasionally used.
What if I am older or have other medical conditions?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is especially valuable for patients whose neurological disorders require a difficult surgical approach or may be impossible to treat using conventional neurosurgical techniques. Patients of advanced age or in poor medical condition can be at an unacceptably high risk for anesthesia and conventional surgery, making Gamma Knife treatment an ideal solution. Gamma Knife technology also is highly beneficial for patients whose lesions are situated in an inaccessible or functionally critical area within the brain. In addition, the treatment can be used as an adjunct to the care of a patient who has undergone conventional brain surgery, interventional neuroradiology or conventional radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Will I need someone to drive me to and from the facility?
Yes, you should refrain from driving for the first 24 to 48 hours post-treatment.
What will I feel during Gamma Knife Treatment?
During the actual procedure, the patient does not see or feel the radiation during treatment. Before the treatment takes place, patients typically feel slight discomfort from the local anesthetic used prior to head frame placement, and have reported feeling pressure for a short time while the pins are inserted to fixate the head frame but no pain.
How will I feel following treatment?
Most patients feel just as well as they did at the beginning of the day. Some tiredness is quite common, especially if the treatment has occupied most of the day. A little discomfort at the pin sites and a mild headache are also quite common – this may persist for up to a day or two. Mild nausea may also occur during the first 48 hours following treatment.
Will I be awake during the procedure?
The patient remains conscious throughout the entire procedure and may communicate with the treatment team.
Following treatment how soon can I travel?
As soon as you feel well enough. Likely you could travel the following day, or even sometime later on the actual day of treatment.
Will I lose my hair?
The vast majority of patients have no risk whatsoever of losing any hair at all. Furthermore, even in those few cases where hair loss is a possibility, such hair loss will never involve the entire scalp as typically happens with whole brain radiotherapy. Only a small number of patients will have tumors sufficiently close to the scalp to carry the risk of any hair loss at all.
Will there be an incision?
No. Neither a surgical incision nor general anesthesia is required.
Will I be radioactive?
No. All radiation stays within the treatment room. The Gamma rays used in the treatment do not remain in the body.
What is used to attach the head frame?
Four small pins, each is approximately the size of a ballpoint pen. Patient does not feel the attachment, local anesthetic is used to numb the area prior to insertion.
San Diego Gamma Knife Center
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San Diego Gamma Knife Center