Gamma Knife Procedures

Gamma Knife is stereotactic radiosurgery or a type of treatment that uses beams of radiation to destroy tumors of the brain, head, and neck. As I’ve “bragged” before I’ve had 99 zaps from the Gamma Knife to treat and, for one particularly stubborn lesion, retreat the 98 melanoma tumors that set up businesses in my brain.

When I talk about the 99 I always want to work in a Jay-Z reference:

  • 99 treatments but a brain ain’t one – huh?
  • 99 treatments but I’m still having fun – true but…
  • 99 treatments but still as dumb – most appropriate.
  • Nothing quite flows…leaves me wanting…

Anyways, despite the cool fact that they don’t have to crack your head open (unlike brain surgery…I have had that too, this is much better)…this hurts and is scary (for me anyways, but I’m sure you can handle it!).

And I have to admit I was surprised when they attached the cage to my head the first time. Dr. Breeze at Univ of Co probably told me but I must have must have done my best to repress it. Okay the cage is actually referred to as a frame (cage sounds more dramatic though don’t you think?).

  • The cage is attached with four screws and the resulting contraption is locked in place
    • A helmet is placed over that
    • This contraption ensures immobilization so that the machine can hit the exact position of the lesions
    • Machine may also adjust the position of your head for this purpose during procedure
    • Beams travel through tiny holes in helmet
  • You lay flat on back, in narrow tube
  • It’s very quiet but you can choose to have music pumped in
    • Recommend you BYO Phone /mp3 player/8-track if you are Starsky or Hutch

They’ll give you a local anesthetic but still hurts (maybe/likely I’m just a wimp)

  • The sessions can be long, depending on how many being treated
  • If you only have a couple you will likely be done in 30 mins
    • Not in my case

I have also “bragged” before about setting the US/EUK record for time in the machine (4.5+ hours)

  • Getting the frame off is welcome relief, that old Tum’s commercial/slogan, How do you spell relief? comes to mind
    • Especially as the anesthetics and whatever else they gave me wears thin by the end of the procedure
  • Have not tried running any marathons or perform strenuous activities for rest of the day…yet
  • Almost always a) hit Chipotle b) Take nap
  • There’s usually swelling where the screws went in
  • There can also be swelling in areas of brain treated
    • I fortunately have not had to deal with that
  • Back to “normal” the next day
    • Dangit!  I keep asking them to make me an accidental savant but Breeze has not complied
      • You know suddenly and inexplicable able to play Mozart with my ten toes while simultaneously speed reading a novel while reciting the birth and death years of every US president …something equally useful and savant-ish like that…

More Notes on GAMMA:

  • Dr. Breeze told me that my 4.5 hours in machine is nothing compared to Japan where I was told they often go for marathon, round the clock sessions
    • The Japanese are supposedly how they know when neurological deficits statistically set in
    • The magic number is 100 or more
    • So I’m still below the cut though you probably can’t tell 0-;
    • Praying we do not have to test those limits further
    • Unfortunately the efficacy of treatment can’t be determined right away…eg how well the procedure worked will be assessed in weeks/months to come.
    • That being said, I wish you and your family tremendous success in this regard!