The human brain, a complex and delicate organ, is susceptible to various disorders, with brain tumor being among the most formidable. The discovery of innovative treatment modalities has significantly improved outcomes for patients facing these challenging diagnoses. One such groundbreaking technology that has revolutionized the field of neurosurgery is the Gamma Knife.
First gamma knife unit in India was established in 1996 at PD Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai shortly followed by AIIMS, New Delhi. At present, there are 6 functional gamma knife centers in India. The treatment is done in many healthcare centers as mentioned but above all one of the best treatments is done in AIIMS, Delhi, where the most complicated cases arrive and recover at a good recovery rate.
Dr. Deepak Agrawal, Professor of Neurosurgery, at AIIMS, trained in Gamma Knife Surgery from Cleveland Clinic, USA, and has performed more than 3000 Gamma knife surgeries to date.1 He has published ground breaking research on gamma knife, including a policy paper on improving neurosurgical access in developing countries using gamma knife.2
Understanding Gamma Knife Surgery
Contrary to its name, the Gamma Knife is not a traditional surgical instrument with blades. Instead, it is a highly advanced and precisely focused radiation therapy tool. Developed in the 1960s by Swedish neurosurgeon Lars Leksell, the Gamma Knife allows surgeons to target and treat brain tumors with unparalleled accuracy.
The technology relies on a multitude of converging gamma rays that meet at a specific point, creating an intense and precise dose of radiation. This convergence occurs at the tumor site, sparing surrounding healthy brain tissue. Unlike conventional radiation therapy, the Gamma Knife delivers a high dose of radiation in a single session, often eliminating the need for multiple treatments.
Advantages of Gamma Knife Surgery
- Precision Targeting: The Gamma Knife’s ability to precisely focus radiation on the tumor makes it an ideal choice for treating both malignant and benign brain tumors. The accuracy of the treatment minimizes damage to surrounding healthy tissue, reducing the risk of side effects.
- Non-Invasive: Gamma Knife surgery is a non-invasive procedure, meaning there is no need for traditional surgery with incisions. Patients typically experience minimal discomfort, and the risk of infection is significantly reduced.
- Outpatient Procedure: In many cases, Gamma Knife surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, allowing patients to return home the same day. This contrasts with traditional brain surgery, which may require a more extended hospital stay.
- High Success Rates: Gamma Knife surgery has demonstrated high success rates in controlling or eliminating tumors. The precision of the treatment contributes to favorable outcomes with minimal impact on a patient’s overall quality of life.
- Treatment of Inoperable Tumors: Some brain tumors may be located in areas that are challenging to access surgically. The Gamma Knife’s non-invasive nature allows for the treatment of tumors that would otherwise be considered inoperable.
The Treatment Process
- Preparation: Before the procedure, patients undergo imaging studies such as MRI or CT scans to precisely map the location and size of the tumor.
- Frame Placement: A lightweight, head-attached frame is typically placed on the patient’s head to ensure accuracy during the procedure. The frame may be attached using local anesthesia.
- Imaging and Planning: Once the frame is in place, additional imaging is performed to precisely plan the treatment. The medical team determines the optimal angles and doses of radiation to target the tumor.
- Treatment: The actual treatment is relatively short, usually lasting between 15 minutes to a few hours, depending on the complexity of the case. During this time, the patient lies comfortably, and the Gamma Knife delivers the radiation precisely to the targeted area.
- Recovery: As the procedure is non-invasive, recovery is typically swift. Most patients can resume their normal activities within a day or two.
Gamma Knife surgery represents a remarkable advancement in the field of neurosurgery, offering hope and effective treatment options for individuals facing the challenges of brain tumors. The precision, non-invasiveness, and high success rates make it a valuable tool in the hands of neurosurgeons, providing patients with an opportunity for optimal outcomes and an improved quality of life. As technology continues to evolve, the Gamma Knife stands as a testament to human ingenuity in the pursuit of healing and conquering the complexities of the human brain.