Winship Cancer Institute at Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital is the first hospital in the state and one of only seven medical centers in the nation to offer advanced radiosurgery for the brain with the Gamma Knife® Icon. The device delivers minimally invasive radiation treatment for malignant and nonmalignant tumors, trigeminal neuralgia (facial pain syndrome) and other neurological disorders.
"This technology pinpoints the tumor with the greatest accuracy to date, and also preserves cognitive function by avoiding critical brain structures. The Gamma Knife® Icon is the best combination of all we've come to learn about stereotactic radiosurgery for the brain," says Peter Rossi, MD, Winship director of radiation oncology at Emory Saint Joseph's.
Gamma Knife® treatment is an alternative to open brain surgery, and does not require a surgeon to use a scalpel or make an incision. The procedure treats brain lesions with enough radiation to control them, so that they disappear, shrink or stop growing, often in the most critical, difficult-to-access areas of the brain.
Gamma Knife® radiation beams are targeted only to the specific area of the brain requiring treatment without harming surrounding healthy tissue. Patients are able to avoid whole brain radiation therapy, and do not experience side effects such as memory loss.
The Gamma Knife treatment lasts from 20 minutes to two hours, and patients go home the same day. The day of the procedure, patients receive an MRI, and then the treatment team, consisting of a neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist and physicist, carefully plan and identify the area of the brain to be treated, so radiation can be delivered precisely.
Before treatment begins, patients are fitted with either a specialized mesh mask that molds to their face or a frame, in order to stabilize their head during the procedure. Patients are then moved automatically into the machine for treatment. "There is minimal pain involved for patients," says Shannon Kahn, MD, Winship radiation oncologist at Emory Saint Joseph's. "After being fitted with either the head frame or mask, patients lay on a table with a comfortable mattress and often sleep during treatment. After treatment is complete, patients can go home the same day."
Joseph Garrett, the first patient at Emory Saint Joseph's to be treated with the Gamma Knife® Icon was pleased with the positive outcome of his treatment. Garrett first experienced vision problems, and was later diagnosed with a benign brain tumor wrapped around the optic nerve. "I didn’t experience any side effects at all," says Garrett about the painless treatment and his immediate return to normal activities.