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Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital to offer Gamma Knife Treatment

Winship Cancer Institute at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital is the first hospital in the state and one of only seven medical centers in the nation to offer advanced radiosurgery for the brain with the Gamma Knife Icon. The device delivers minimally invasive radiation treatment for malignant and nonmalignant tumors, trigeminal neuralgia (facial pain syndrome) and other neurological disorders.

“This technology pinpoints the tumor with the greatest accuracy to date, and also preserves cognitive function by avoiding critical brain structures. The Gamma Knife Icon is the best combination of all we’ve come to learn about stereotactic radiosurgery for the brain,” says Peter Rossi, MD, Winship director of radiation oncology at Emory Saint Joseph’s.

Gamma Knife Treatment

Gamma Knife treatment is an alternative to open brain surgery, as it does not require a scalpel or an incision. The procedure treats brain lesions with enough radiation to control them. As a result, the lesion will disappear, shrink or stop growing. This often occurs in the most critical, difficult-to-access areas of the brain. With Gamma Knife treatment, patients avoid whole brain radiation therapy, and do not experience side effects such as memory loss.

The Gamma Knife treatment lasts from 20 minutes to two hours, and patients go home the same day. The day of the procedure, the patient will first receive an MRI. The treatment team, a neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist and physicist, will then use the MRI to carefully plan and identify the area of the brain to be treated. Next, the patient is fitted with either a head frame or mask to stabilize the head during the procedure. The patient is then moved into the machine for treatment.

“There is minimal pain involved for patients,” says Shannon Kahn, MD, Winship radiation oncologist at Emory Saint Joseph’s. “After being fitted with either the head frame or mask, patients lay on a table with a comfortable mattress and often sleep during treatment. After treatment is complete, patients can go home the same day.”

Gamma Knife Patient Experience

Joseph Garrett, the first patient at Emory Saint Joseph’s to be treated with the Gamma Knife Icon, was pleased with his treatment. Garrett, who experienced vision problems and was later diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, said, “I didn’t experience any side effects at all.” He reported treatment to be painless, and immediately returned to normal activities.

Gamma Knife, Not a Knife At All

Gamma Knife Surgery Emory Saint Joseph's

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is performed at Winship at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

What is Gamma Knife radiosurgery?

Despite its name, Gamma Knife is not a knife or scalpel. With a Gamma Knife procedure, there is no incision, no blood and virtually no pain. Gamma Knife refers to the name of the machine that is used to treat benign or malignant tumors and functional disorders like Trigeminal Neuralgia or Parkinson’s disease. The Gamma Knife machine uses 201 targeted beams of radiation to destroy disease with unmatched precision. Healthy tissue surrounding tumors is spared. The procedure is so accurate that it is considered to be as good as surgery, or better.

Who is a good candidate for Gamma Knife radiosurgery?

Gamma Knife is used largely to treat malignant brain tumors (most commonly metastases to the brain), or benign brain tumors related to hearing and balance. The procedure offers an alternative for patients with tumors too difficult to remove surgically, who aren’t well enough to undergo traditional surgery, or who just prefer a less invasive treatment.

The goal of Gamma Knife therapy is to damage the cells of the tumor and prevent them from multiplying, while preserving the surrounding healthy tissue. Malignant tumors may decrease in size over a period of a few months. Benign tumors take longer to shrink, but the goal of Gamma Knife therapy is mostly to prevent any future growth.

What will does Gamma Knife treatment look like?

Treatment time is typically shorter than with conventional surgery. Patients receive MRI scans to pinpoint the exact location and amount of radiation that will be administered. A lightweight frame is attached to the head with four pins. Local anesthetic is used, but the patient remains awake during the procedure, which is painless and lasts from a few minutes to several hours, depending on size and location of the tumor. This treatment is typically carried out jointly by a Neurosurgeon and a Radiation Oncologist.

Where does Winship offer Gamma Knife radiosurgery?

We offer Gamma Knife radiosurgery at Winship at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Visit the Gamma Knife Center at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital or call (678) 843-5513 to talk to a Gamma Knife nurse navigator.

Learn more about Gamma Knife Radiosurgery!

About Dr. Kahn

Shannon Kahn, MDShannon Kahn, MD, is a board certified radiation oncologist in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA and treats patients at Winship at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Dr. Kahn practices general radiation oncology and specializes in the treatment of breast cancer, brain and spine tumors, and lung cancer. Dr. Kahn is skilled at Gamma Knife radiosurgery, partial breast irradiation and breast brachytherapy as well as stereotactic body radiotherapy in the treatment of early stage lung cancers. She has published and trained in the use of intensity modulated radiotherapy and its benefits in the minimization of treatment-related side effects.

Winship Cancer Institute is Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer center and has over 250 active clinical trials. Winship is ranked among the top 25 cancer hospitals in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report.