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South Sound Gamma Knife Frequently Asked Questions

Q:What is Gamma Knife?
A: Gamma Knife is considered the “gold standard of care” for non-invasive treatment of many brain tumors (some previously considered inoperable), vascular malformations and neurological disorders. The Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion model focuses 192 tiny beams of radiation on one computer-mapped target in the brain, and is accurate within half the width of a human hair.

Q:Speaking of, will I lose my hair?
A: Patients do not lose their hair with Gamma Knife treatment.

Q:What are the conditions treated with Gamma Knife?
A: Gamma Knife is used to treat brain disorders including:

  • Benign and malignant (cancerous) brain tumors including:
  • meningioma
  • metastatic (cancer that has spread to the brain)
  • pituitary
  • glioma
  • acoustic

Additional conditions treated by Gamma Knife:

  • Intracranial tumors
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVM)
  • Essential tremor or symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Highly proven Gamma Knife brain radiosurgery provides an excellent option for patients who:

  • Are not candidates for deep brain stimulation (DBS)
  • Wish to avoid risks or are not good surgical candidates for traditional open-skull surgery.

Gamma Knife may be used in place of or in addition to open-skull brain surgery or whole brain radiation, depending on the diagnosis.

Q: Are there side effects to the Gamma Knife procedure?
A: Our patients rarely report any side effects from Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Here are a few minor side effects that occur:

  • You may experience some swelling above your eyes within 48 hours of the procedure. This is due to the local anesthetic used to numb your forehead for pin placement.
  • Some patients experience tingling or temporary scalp numbness above the pin sites.
  • A tension-like headache is typical for three or four days after treatment. Some patients report no aftereffects at all.

Q: I really can’t afford to miss work. How much time off will I need to recuperate?
A: Gamma Knife requires no incisions or invasive procedures and therefore has a very quick recovery time. You may return to work or school within 24 to 48 hours after your procedure, depending on how you are feeling.

Q: Are there any dietary restrictions with Gamma Knife treatment?
A: We ask that you do not eat or drink anything after midnight before your treatment day. You can take your prescribed medications with just enough water to swallow them. Following treatment, you can resume your regular diet immediately, as desired.

Q: I admit it—I have a fear of Gamma Knife. What all is involved?
A: It is a long day, but there is really nothing to fear. On the day of treatment, you will check in at the St. Joseph Medical Center Outpatient Center Admitting department in Tacoma, WA. A Gamma Knife nurse will greet you and take you for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam. Prior to the MRI, you will have an intravenous (IV) line placed with light sedation, and the neurosurgeon will affix the head frame, applying local anesthetic at each pin point. With the head frame in place, the nurse will walk your gurney through the hospital skybridge to the South Sound Gamma Knife facility for treatment. Your family may accompany you and may stay with you until your actual treatment time. Click to learn more about what to expect.