Washington University School of Medicine was the first in Missouri to offer the Gamma Knife, a highly effective radiation tool that targets brain tumors in patients with gliomas, essential tremors, epilepsy and other neurologic cases. More than 3,000 Gamma Knife procedures later, this innovative tool is giving patients with hard-to-reach and hard-to-treat brain tumors a better chance at survival and recovery.
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 192 precisely guided beams of radiation on targeted areas that cannot be reached through surgery, are multiple in number or are resistant to radiation therapy. 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 and cranial nerves.
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.
This unique system utilizes a frame, allowing the physician to target a treatment area of the brain with pinpoint accuracy. During treatment, tiny beams of radiation are focused on the target area. These beams are customized for each patient to treat that specific medical condition. A neurosurgeon places the frame on the patient's head to create total head immobility during treatment, since a movement as small as one millimeter in any direction can affect treatment.
Candidates for Gamma Knife radiosurgery may include patients with metastatic brain disease, gliomas, pituitary adenomas, acoustic schwannomas, meningiomas, arteriovenous malformations (AVM), trigeminal neuralgia (facial pain), essential tremors, epilepsy and selected other neurologic conditions.
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 855.925.0631.