IU Health is a pioneer in stereotactic radiosurgery, and was the first in the state to offer Gamma Knife—an innovative tool that delivers very high doses of concentrated radiation to tumors. Since acquiring this technology in 1997, surgeons at IU Health have used it to treat more than 2,000 patients. In addition, we have fellowship-trained doctors who specialize in this area.
Despite its name, Gamma Knife does not involve a knife, or even cutting. In fact, it is a completely non-invasive treatment that can be performed in one session with extreme precision.
The “blades” of the Gamma Knife are more than 200 gamma rays, or beams of radiation focused through a helmet onto a specific target, such as a brain tumor. Although the radiation level of each individual beam is low, the combination of many beams results in a very high dose delivered at one time. Because the radiation is so precise, doctors can deliver these high doses without damaging healthy surrounding tissue.
There are many advantages to Gamma Knife. A surgical incision is not required, which can eliminate the risk of hemorrhage or infection. It can be done as an outpatient procedure, so hospitalization is generally short, often requiring only an overnight stay. There is little, if any, discomfort and people can quickly return to their daily activities. And it can be used on inoperable tumors, giving hope to patients who have been told their condition is untreatable, or who may be at high risk with traditional open skull surgery.
In addition to treating brain and spinal tumors, neurosurgeons at IU Health Neuroscience use Gamma Knife to destroy arteriovenous malformations (AVM) and abnormal clusters of blood vessels in the brain, as well as to treat people who have trigeminal neuralgia.