Stereotactic Radiosurgery, which commonly involves the use of Gamma Knife or CyberKnife treatments, is a non-invasive treatment option for various brain conditions, including brain arteriovenous malformations (AVM). This precise and targeted approach delivers high doses of radiation to the AVM while sparing surrounding healthy tissue.
What is Stereotactic Radiosurgery?
Stereotactic Radiosurgery is a specialized radiation therapy technique that uses multiple, precisely focused radiation beams to treat brain AVMs and other brain abnormalities. Despite its name, it does not involve surgery or incisions, or even a knife, making it a non-invasive alternative to traditional surgical procedures.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Gamma Knife is one of the most well-known Stereotactic Radiosurgery systems. It utilizes nearly 200 individual beams of gamma radiation to converge on the target. The patient’s head is secured in a specialized metal halo frame during the procedure, allowing for accurate and stable positioning. The patient can be either awake or asleep for the procedure. Children are usually placed under general anesthesia for their Gamma Knife Treatment. Learn more about Gamma Knife: Click here.
CyberKnife is another advanced Stereotactic Radiosurgery system that uses robotic technology to deliver precise radiation doses to the AVM. It uses real-time imaging to track the patient’s movement during treatment, ensuring continuous accuracy even if there are slight positional shifts. Instead of a halo metal frame, Cyberknife uses a custom mask that fits over the patient’s face to help keep them in one position. Learn more about Cyberknife: Click here.
Before Stereotactic Radiosurgery, advanced imaging, such as an angiogram and MRI scans, are done to create a detailed 3D map of the AVM’s location and size. The treatment team then plans the radiation beams’ precise positions to deliver the optimal dose to the AVM while minimizing exposure to nearby healthy tissues.
During the procedure, the patient lies comfortably on a treatment table, and the Gamma Knife or CyberKnife system revolves around the head, delivering the targeted radiation beams with sub-millimeter accuracy.
Recovery and Follow-Up
Stereotactic Radiosurgery is typically an outpatient procedure, allowing patients to return home the same day. Recovery is generally rapid, with minimal discomfort. Regular follow-up appointments and imaging studies are scheduled to monitor the AVM’s response to treatment over time.
Benefits and Risks
Stereotactic Radiosurgery offers several benefits, including non-invasiveness, shorter treatment times, and reduced risk of complications as compared to traditional surgery. However, potential risks, such as radiation-related side effects, are discussed thoroughly with patients beforehand. The most common complication with SRS is brain swelling which is usually treated with steroids. SRS works slowly over years with peak effectiveness typically occurring by year three and it is not unusual for it to take weeks, months, a year (or sometimes longer) to begin to see the effects of treatment.
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