What do the words “brain surgery” mean to you? Did you imagine an operating room with a surgeon opening the patient’s skull? There is another way to treat some brain tumors, as well as other brain malformations and even some neurological disorders: the Gamma Knife.
The Gamma Knife is not actually a knife. It’s a machine that directs beams of gamma radiation to a precise area in the brain. Gamma radiation is a type of high-frequency radiation that is normally damaging to the body. In order to use it safely so that only the target area is affected, the Gamma Knife actually uses several beams of this radiation.
Each individual beam is of low intensity, too low to have any effect on the brain. But when all the beams come together on the target area, the radiation is high enough to treat that precise area effectively. The result is that the Gamma Knife can target areas deep inside the brain with little or no discomfort to the patient. In fact, patients can often go home within a day of the procedure.
The Gamma Knife can treat many types of disorders, including brain tumors, cerebral arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), epilepsy and functional disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia.
Gamma Knife technology is more common now, but the Gamma Knife Center at Columbia was one of the first in the area. The Center was started by Drs. Steven R. Isaacson and Dr. Michael B. Sisti.
Dr. Isaacson has since retired, but Dr. Sisti is still in the Department of Neurosurgery at Columbia University Medical Center treating patients. A number of the rest of the original team is still there as well, which means patients at the Gamma Knife Center get the benefit of unparalleled experience and expertise.
In fact, the team has just reached a milestone—they’ve treated their 4,500th patient!
“Our patients have been very happy with our program, and I still have contact with many of them 25 years in,” says Dr. Sisti. “I think this is because our radiosurgery program is unparalleled in its consistency and professionalism.”
The Gamma Knife Center team looks forward to helping many more patients in the future.