Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick • Somerset

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Gamma Knife Treatment


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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital: Gamma Knife InfographicRobert Wood Johnson is pleased to offer the Gamma Knife Perfexion, a noninvasive tool specifically designed to treat many brain conditions.

The Gamma Knife is not a knife in the normal sense of the word. Your physician will make no incisions in your head; no blades are used. Instead, the Gamma Knife uses radiation. This approach, known as radiosurgery, focuses radiation directly, and very precisely, on the targeted area of the brain without affecting surrounding healthy tissue.

Individually, each radiation beam is too weak to damage the normal tissue it crosses on the way to the target. But when focused precisely on that target, where it intersects, the combined radiation is sufficient to treat the targeted area. The radiation source used is called cobalt 60.

Through the use of three-dimensional, computer-aided planning and the high degree of immobilization of the patient, the treatment can minimize the amount of radiation to surrounding healthy brain tissue.

There are approximately 192 sources of cobalt-60 loaded within the treatment unit. Thousands of radiation beams can be generated from these sources with a level of accuracy of more than 0.5mm, about the thickness of a strand of hair. Individually, each radiation beam is too weak to damage the normal tissues it crosses on the way to the target. But when focused precisely on that target, the beams intersect and the combined radiation is sufficient to treat the targeted area.

Because Gamma Knife radiosurgery is so accurate, the full dose of radiation can be delivered during a single session, compared with multiple visits for linear accelerator (linac) treatments, which use lower doses delivered in fractions (fractionated treatment).

About "Stereotactic Radiosurgery"

Radiosurgery is the delivery of a single, large dose of radiation to a specific target in the brain with surgical precision. The radiation reacts on a molecular level with the cancer cells to stop their reproduction, which kills the cancer.

Stereotactic refers to precise positioning in three-dimensional space. In Gamma Knife surgery, this means a 3-D reference frame is attached to the patient’s head during the procedure.

The stereotactic frame:

provides a 3-D reference which can be seen on the imaging equipment to provide exact coordinates for the target.

totally immobilizes the patient’s head to ensure pinpoint accuracy when targeting and delivering radiation - it’s similar to placing a camera on a tripod rather than trying to hold it steady with just your hands.

The reduction of excess radiation is important to everyone, but particularly to cancer patients who are receiving other radiotherapy treatments. For these patients, treatment of a metastatic brain tumor – a cancer that has spread from the original site – might have to be delayed by up to six weeks if certain less precise treatments are used.

Gentle, Noninvasive Treatment

Since no incision is made, the patient’s head does not need to be shaved, and the risk of surgical complications is low. Patients may experience side effects, but they are often very mild. Headache, dizziness, seizures or nausea may be experienced immediately after the treatment, but the effects will disappear soon after the procedure.

Conditions Treated with Gamma Knife

Following is a partial list of conditions treated using the Gamma Knife at Robert Wood Johnson. Click on each for further information:

"Standard of Care"

Gamma Knife is the most accepted and widely used radiosurgery treatment in the world. About half a million people have undergone Gamma Knife treatment, and it's the only radiation therapy system cleared by the FDA for irradiating brain metastases.

Gamma Knife surgery is what is known as a "standard of care" for its indications. In the last five years, the number of patients treated per year has increased by 300 percent. More than 30,000 patients every year worldwide are treated with Gamma Knife surgery.

Gamma Knife is a Swedish invention. In 1968, the first Gamma Knife was installed at a hospital in Sweden. The first in the U.S. was installed in 1987.

Latest Technology: Why Gamma Knife Perfexion is Different

Over the years, Gamma Knife has been refined and improved with advances in engineering radiation physics, robotic controls and computerized treatment planning. Robert Wood Johnson is home to Perfexion, the latest version of the technology. Perfexion exceeds the performance of previous Gamma Knife versions with:

  • Increased patient comfort and reduced treatment times
  • Significantly reduced radiation scatter to uninvolved organs
  • Fully robotic helmet movement and positioning

New State-of-the-Art Facility, Conveniently Located

Completed in 2010, the Gamma Knife Center at RWJUH was designed to house the latest Gamma Knife technology, with a special focus on patient convenience and comfort. The facility is conveniently located on the hospital campus on the first floor at 10 Plum Street in New Brunswick. Free parking is provided in a parking garage attached to the facility.

Click here to learn about what to expect before, during and after Gamma Knife treatment.

Interested in learning more about Gamma Knife treatment at Robert Wood Johnson?
Click here to request more info or an appointment online or call us at (732) 418-8002.