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What is Gamma Knife and What Does it Treat?

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Alyson McIntosh, MD, is a radiation oncologist with Allentown Radiation Oncology Associates.

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When I meet with patients who are potential candidates for Gamma Knife® Perfexion™ treatment, there are often questions about how it works and why it may be more beneficial than other treatment approaches.

Let’s first talk about what Gamma Knife can treat. Gamma Knife offers a non-surgical way to treat those who may have conditions affecting the head or brain. I treat people with conditions that include cancerous lesions of the brain, and non-cancerous conditions like trigeminal neuralgia, schwanomas/acoustic neuromas, meningiomas and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). I work with a specialized team including a Neurosurgeon, a Medical Physicist and trained Gamma Knife nurses.

Although this device has ‘knife’ in its name, no physical cutting is involved. As radiation oncologist, I use targeted Gamma radiation to destroy certain tissues, such as cancerous growth, or in some cases, to create a scar which stops improper nerve messaging.

What is unique about Gamma Knife Perfexion is the way we can ‘shape' the radiation. One hundred and ninety-two tiny beams are aimed at the precise location that needs treatment, which gives us the ability to target what needs to be treated while avoiding healthy tissues. Unlike other stereotactic treatments, Gamma Knife only requires one treatment because it is so accurately targeted.

In terms of treatment time, most take under an hour. However, if several areas need to be treated, it can extend to a longer timeframe. We will talk about time in advance so you, and family or friends who are waiting, will know what to expect.

Another benefit for Gamma Knife is that it does not cause pain. Following treatment, many say they are tired. I recommend that you listen to your body and rest. By the next day or so, normal energy levels should return.