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Epilepsy Center

Gamma Knife / Stereotactic Surgery for Epilepsy

Washington University School of Medicine was the first in Missouri to use the Gamma Knife, a highly effective radiation tool that targets isolated brain abnormalities. More than 2,000 Gamma Knife procedures later, this innovative tool is giving patients with epilepsy another option for treatment. 

The Gamma Knife at the Siteman Cancer Center isn't a knife at all. It is a radiation tool known world-wide for its precise, powerful treatment of brain tumors. This equipment focuses 201 precisely guided beams of radiation on targeted brain areas that cannot be reached through surgery. For patients whose age or other medical conditions make brain surgery too risky, the Gamma Knife can be a life-saving procedure.

Benefits of Gamma Knife Surgery

The Gamma Knife unit has a long, well-documented history of accuracy and success in delivering focused radiation. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is safe, accurate and cost-efficient. It allows more effective treatment of smaller lesions of the brain and lesions that are near critical structures in the head, such as the brain stem.

Gamma Knife procedures typically result in shorter hospital stays, fewer complications and less risk for patients. The treatment is minimally invasive, so most patients need little recuperation and can resume normal activities the next day.

What to Expect

Because no incisions are made during Gamma Knife radiosurgery, and because the method of radiation delivery is precise, the risk of surgical complications is low and patients have little discomfort. Most gamma knife patients can be treated as outpatients. The procedure typically lasts four to five hours.

The system is unique in that it uses a special helmet to create entry for tiny pencil beams to precisely focus on one spot. Each helmet comes with 60 to 70 holes in different sizes, depending on the size of the target. The unit can beam through as many of these holes as needed to cover the target area. Neurosurgeons place the helmet and frame on the patient’s head to create rigid immobility. The head cannot move at all, because one millimeter either way can make a difference. 

The Gamma Knife Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital is jointly owned by Barnes-Jewish Hospital and HealthSouth and opened in June 1998. The facility allows credentialed physicians from the St. Louis metropolitan area to treat patients with certain neurosurgical conditions within the Barnes-Jewish Hospital unit.

For a referral to a Washington University neurologist or neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call .

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Epilepsy Patient, Neurosurgeon

Clint McMurphy from Makanda, IL was diagnosed with grand mal seizures and epilepsy at the age of 3. His doctors had it under control with medication most of his life, but by the time Clint was in his upper 20s, the seizures became uncontrollable, often making him lose consciousness.

Neurosurgeon Eric Leuthardt, MD, performed a focal resection, removing the tissue from Clint’s left temporal lobe that was responsible for epileptic seizures.

Learn more about Clint or see more patient stories.

 

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