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Brain Surgery and the Application of Radiation

Generally speaking, tumors that grow in the brain are often good candidates for radiosurgery. This involves an application of radiation that goes through the skull and tissue and concentrates on the targeted mass. The whole process is bloodless, so skin and skull do not have to be opened to apply.

Radiosurgery is the common term for a type of radiation therapy that is usually done on the brain. Also known as stereotactic surgery, it usually involves one application of strong radiation concentrated on the tumor, yet saving the healthy normal tissue. The patient will receive radiation via linear accelerator or some radiation source directed by a collator. There will be many small beams sent through the skull into the brain converging on the mass. Radiation therapy will work both for malignant and non-malignant tumors.

Types of Radiation Brain Surgery

Radiation therapy has been a great boost for the field of brain surgery. This is a technique that will not only mean less invasive methods, but the patient's cost and recovery time is greatly reduced.

Radiation particles come in many forms, for example the company Elekta's radiosurgery tool, the "Gamma Knife," uses doses of gamma rays that bombard the cancer growth. This uses 201 beams of small focused radiation to converge onto the cancer tumor. The source of radiation comes from an isotope of cobalt. The concept was created more that 30 years ago by a scientist named Lars Leksel, Professor of Neurosurgery at Karolinsk Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Another radiosurgery tool, with the trade name Cyberknife, sends out tumor killing x-rays instead of Gamma ones. The beam is controlled by a robotic arm that uses data from mapping software to target the mass. The software that is used, called 6D, maps the tumor in an unusual way. It will compensate for patient movement as well as use the x-ray data to pinpoint the targeted area while compensating for projected error. They claim to bring the accuracy to 0.5 mm of error. Like the Gammaknife, it can be used for both malignant and non-malignant matter. However, one main different between the two is that Gammaknife is designed only for cranial radiation therapy.

Patient Expectations with Radiosurgery

Because the radiation therapy is done non-invasively, patients will spend less time recovering, often not even needing to recover by rest at all. In the example of using the Gamma Knife procedure, the patient can resume normal activity a day after the procedure.

The Gamma Knife does take long to administer either. It can take 15 minutes to an hour of set up. There are some surgical procedures that are done on the cranium to fit the headset where the beamlets are to be sent through.


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