Gamma Knife is a type of radiation therapy that delivers thin beams of high-energy radiation to the brain. It delivers radiation in a more accurate way compared to the most common way of giving radiation therapy. Gamma Knife is a treatment for brain tumours and other brain conditions. It helps to heal or slow a brain condition.
Gamma Knife doesn’t use a knife and isn’t a type of surgery. You won’t need to be put to sleep during the procedure (have anesthesia). You will have imaging tests, such magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to get pictures of your brain to help plan treatment. Imaging tests are done before your treatment or on the day of your treatment.
Gamma Knife treatment is only available in Alberta at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. The Gamma Knife team is made up of neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, medical physicists, radiologists, nurses, and radiation therapists.
There are 2 types of Gamma Knife treatment.
Mask-based treatment uses a mask to hold your head in place during treatment. The mask will be fitted to the shape of your face.
Frame-based treatment uses a head frame to hold your head in place during treatment. The head frame guides the radiation to specific areas of the brain. The head frame is held tightly to your head with 4 pins.
As a patient, you won’t be able to decide which type of Gamma Knife treatment you have. The Gamma Knife team will choose the treatment that is best for you based on your condition.
If you’re having Gamma Knife treatment, you may have the following questions. You can also view a video that shows you what to expect.
What brain conditions does Gamma Knife treat?
The Gamma Knife treats brain conditions such as tumours and abnormal blood vessels. It also helps treat severe facial nerve pain and conditions that affect movement.
Is the treatment painful? The treatment itself isn’t painful. But if you’re having frame-based treatment, you will need to wear a head frame during the treatment. The head frame and the pins to hold the headframe in place may be uncomfortable so your doctor may offer you medicine to help you relax. You may also find it helps to listen to music during the treatment.
Will I be awake during the treatment? You will be awake during the treatment. If you have medicine to help you relax it may make you a bit sleepy.
Can I leave the hospital after the treatment? Most people can go home the same day as the treatment. If you are from out of town and need to have an angiogram (an x-ray of the blood vessels), you will need to stay overnight in Edmonton (but not in the hospital).
Are there risks or side effects? The Gamma Knife treatment can make you feel tired, have headaches, or feel sick to your stomach (nauseated). These side effects tend to happen within a few days of the treatment.
What are the advantages of Gamma Knife treatment? Gamma Knife treatment:
Follow all the instructions that your healthcare provider gave you at your consultation. Let the healthcare team know if you have diabetes. You will get special instructions about using your medicines on the day of the surgery.
Make sure you have a ride home. You won’t be able to drive after your treatment because you may be given medicines that make you sleepy.
The day before treatment On the day before treatment, wash your hair but don’t use any hair products such as gel, mousse or hairspray. Don’t use any scented products such as perfumes, lotions, or after shave.
Special instructions for mask-based and frame-based treatment:
What to bring to your treatment Bring the following items to your treatment:
Don’t bring your valuable items to the hospital. The hospital is not responsible for lost or missing items.
On the morning of the treatment take your medicines with a few sips of water. Take off your jewelry and watch. You can bring a friend or family member with you to the hospital.
Check-in at the
University of Alberta Hospital. You’ll then be asked to go to the Gamma Knife waiting area.
The Gamma Knife staff will ask you to change into a hospital gown and put your belongings in a locker. They will also:
You may need imaging tests, such as MRI, and other tests depending on your care needs. These tests may have been done in the days before your treatment or on the day of your treatment.
The Gamma Knife team will use the pictures from your imaging tests to decide:
You will be able to rest in a patient room while the team is planning your treatment.
You will lie down on the Gamma Knife treatment table. The healthcare team will attach some medical equipment to your body to check your vital signs during the treatment.
A radiation therapist will watch you on camera during your treatment. They will also be able to talk to you during the treatment using a microphone system. You will also get a call bell to put in your hand if you need to get their attention.
During the treatment you will be able to listen to music to help you relax.
You will go to a patient room for 30 to 60 minutes. The healthcare team will check to see how you’re doing and you can have something to eat and drink.
Before you go home, the Gamma Knife staff will give you discharge instructions and let you know the date and time of any follow-up appointments. You will be at the hospital until 4:30 p.m. or later.
It’s important to do the following:
Specific information for mask-based and frame-based treatment:
Current as of: January 29, 2019
Author: Neurosciences, University of Alberta, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.