Last year we brought you the news that the Gamma Knife team at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital treated their 4,500th patient. Now we’re excited to announce that the Center just got a $2 million upgrade to a Leksell Gamma Knife Icon system, opening up new treatment possibilities for patients.
“It’s a game changer for our patients,” says Dr. Michael Sisti, director of the Gamma Knife Center. “In the first 2 months since the upgrade, we have done more than 110 treatment sessions for our patients. The ability to use the Icon’s frameless mask and do multiple patient treatment sessions has greatly increased the scope of conditions we can now treat more completely and effectively.”
Gamma Knife is not actually a knife. It’s an instrument that uses concentrated gamma radiation (radiosurgery) to treat problems such as brain tumors, arteriovenous malformations, trigeminal neuralgia facial pain, and some forms of epilepsy, among other conditions.
Although radiation can be harmful to the brain, the Gamma Knife uses hundreds of small beams of low-intensity radiation, each one delivering a radiation dose that is too weak to damage brain tissue on its own. But when these low-intensity beams converge on the target treatment area, the radiation is focused precisely at a high dose level to treat the problem.
Gamma Knife treatment itself is usually comfortable and painless. However, it requires fitting the patient with a special box-like frame that is fixed to the skull with screws. Not only is this frame uncomfortable and invasive, it can’t be used on patients with large tumors or other contraindications.
The new Icon system gives doctors the option of using a non-invasive mask instead of the frame. The mask opens up Gamma Knife treatment to many of those patients who couldn’t be fitted with the frame.
The mask drapes comfortably over the face and skull, making the procedure much less invasive for the patient. It is a custom fit for each patient that requires doctors to have additional training and expertise.
Beyond comfort, the Icon system is also a step up in safety and accuracy. It features an integrated imaging and motion management system that helps the Knife target tumors more accurately. It can also detect the slightest motion of the patient—which is critical when any movement could move the radiation off the target.
Dr. Sisti along with Dr. Guy McKhann and the rest of the Gamma Knife Center team got to try on the mask as part of their Icon training, so they know first-hand the difference it will make in patient comfort. But you don’t have to take their word for it—the first patient who used the mask was so comfortable, and the treatment went so smoothly, that he fell asleep during the procedure!
Although the mask opens up treatment to many patients who weren’t eligible before, not everyone will be able to use it. Doctors will look at each case carefully and determine which method is best for each patient—traditional frame or frameless. Either way, the new Icon technology promises the very best in Gamma Knife treatment.