July 8, 1999 A recent study from Mayo Clinic shows that gamma knife surgery is successful in treating patients with a wide variety of brain disorders. In patients with benign tumors, growth was controlled in 96 percent of the cases.
The gamma knife, a special machine that focuses high intensity radiation precisely into the brain, offers an alternative to neurosurgery for many brain disorders. Because gamma knife radiosurgery is brain surgery without a scalpel, patients who undergo the procedure are able to return to their normal activities the day after their operation.
"Treatment of benign tumors is one area in which the gamma knife has been found to be very effective," says Bruce E. Pollock, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon and lead author of the study. "Surgery is often unable to get at an entire tumor because of possible damage to surrounding brain tissue. With the gamma knife, management of such patients is less risky."
The gamma knife's precision is enhanced by the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which provides a three-dimensional look at the area of concern within the brain. When coupled with modern computer dose-planning software, the gamma knife's working accuracy is considered to be 1 millimeter or less.
Not all tumors and brain abnormalities can be treated with the gamma knife. Dr. Pollock says he refers 30 percent to 40 percent of cases sent to him to surgery or outpatient radiation therapy. Dr. Pollock and his colleagues have found that, in general, patients with lesions larger than 35 millimeters aren?t good candidates for gamma knife treatment.
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