Gamma knife treatment, a form of radiosurgery, is a type of non-invasive brain surgery that uses gamma ray radiation to attack benign and malignant brain tumors, including metastatic brain tumors, in addition to other brain tissue diseases and disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia and acoustic neuroma.
Gamma knife surgery does not use a knife or make surgical incisions of any kind. It earns its name from the gamma rays’ ability to “cut” through the skull and other brain tissue to directly target and attack tumors at the source, while leaving the surrounding, healthy tissue relatively unscathed. Gamma knife treatment is considered one of the only viable options for removing metastatic brain tumors, many of which cannot be removed through traditional brain surgery.
Ionizing radiation. Gamma knife surgery uses ionizing radiation, which alters the chemical bonds of living tissue by removing electrons from atoms and molecules, thereby ionizing them. Ionizing radiation destroys living tissue and can be hazardous when used improperly, but it has a number of positive results in medical applications.
The tissue inside a tumor contains cells that are dividing at an advanced rate, causing the tissue to grow out of control. This type of diseased tissue can be destroyed by removing the electrons from a cell’s atoms and molecules using ionizing radiation, which destroys electrons.
Compared to open brain surgery. Gamma knife treatments can be an alternative to open brain surgery, which removes the tumor from the extra-cranial or intra-cranial areas, but sometimes the gamma knife is the only option.
Depending on a tumor’s location, open brain surgery may not be possible, and in the case of multiple metastatic brain tumors it can be impossible to remove each tumor. Even when a tumor is removed through open brain surgery, the malignant cells may regenerate themselves if all the diseased tissue is not extracted.
Benign brain tumor treatment. Benign tumors such as those that cause trigeminal neuralgia and acoustic neuroma may require gamma knife treatment to stop growth. While these tumors are not cancerous or life-threatening, if they grow too large in the wrong spot they can cause debilitating health problems.
Gamma knife surgery is considered one of two options for acoustic neuroma treatment. The other option is open brain surgery, which comes with risks such as permanently destroying facial nerves and hearing in the affected ear. While gamma knife surgery cannot remove the tumor, it can stop, and in some cases reverse, its growth.