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What is the gamma knife procedure like?

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Quick Answer

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a medical procedure that takes an entire day and begins with the attachment of a lightweight frame to the patient’s head with four pins, explains Mayo Clinic. The patient then undergoes a series of imagining scans to find the precise location of the brain abnormality being treated.

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Full Answer

Children usually receive anesthesia during the imaging and the surgery; adults are typically awake but may receive a mild sedative. Once imaging is done the results of the scans are relayed into a computer and the radiosurgery team analyzes the information and prepares for the procedure. This process takes about one to two hours, states Mayo Clinic.

When planning is complete, the patient lies down on a bed which slides into the Gamma Knife machine, and the frame on the patient’s head is secured to a helmet inside of the machine, according to Mayo Clinic. During the procedure the machine sends about 200 tiny beams of radiation to the precise location of the brain abnormality. Each individual beam has little effect on the tissue, but the focus of 200 beams delivers a strong dose of radiation to the area where the beams meet.

The actual surgery lasts anywhere between one to four hours depending on the size of the area treated, explains Mayo Clinic. The precision of Gamma Knife radiosurgery minimizes damage to healthy tissue around the target and often causes fewer side effects than traditional surgery.

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