A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Stereotactic radiosurgery: “Surgery” without cuts

stereotactic radiosurgery machine called Gamma Knife

Radiosurgery using Gamma Knife is a good treatment option for many types of brain tumors.

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a treatment technique that pinpoints ultra-high doses of radiation to a specific target in someone’s body. Contrary to the suggestion in its name, no incision is ever made. Instead, medical experts aim mega voltage X-rays precisely to affected areas, maximizing the dose of radiation to the area of treatment while avoiding the dose to nearby, healthy areas.

What is it used for?

“The first stereotactic radiosurgery was done in 1967 using Gamma Knife technology that’s primarily used for brain tumors,” said Dr. Anderson Bauer, Marshfield Clinic Health System radiation oncologist. “Gamma Knife continues to improve and remains the most advanced, precise device for radiosurgery treatment of brain tumors and functional brain disorders. It is the gold standard of brain radiosurgery, and we are fortunate to offer it to Marshfield Clinic Health System patients in Marshfield.”

Although most stereotactic radiation is for treatment of brain tumors, the Gamma Knife is also used for benign conditions like facial pain due to trigeminal neuralgia or for tremor.

Outside of the brain, cancers involving the lung, spine, liver, prostate and pancreas can be treated with stereotactic radiation treatment with Linear accelerator-based techniques. Marshfield Clinic Health System has linear accelerator-based stereotactic radiosurgery programs at all of its radiation oncology sites.

What is the procedure like?

“Because there is no anesthesia and no incisions, stereotactic radiosurgery procedures are very well-tolerated with minimal side effects,” Dr. Bauer said. “Preparation is fairly basic too, since treatment is based off imaging and patient positioning.”

Gamma Knife treatments typically involve one visit, with the radiation being delivered in less than an hour. Linear accelerator-based treatments involve 3-5 visits, with radiation being delivered in less than 15 minutes each time. In many cases, patients can drive themselves to and from the appointment and do not need to be hospitalized.

“This is an ideal treatment for patients who have a localized site of disease to be targeted,” Dr. Bauer said. “In some cases, it is the only option where surgery is not an option.”

To learn more about Marshfield Clinic Health System radiation oncology services, visit our website.

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