By Chris Taleghani, M.D., M.B.A.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery is a treatment for cancerous or non-cancerous tumors, where focused radiation is selectively delivered into the affected tissue. The technique uses multiple intersecting beams or arcs to deliver high doses of radiation to the tumor, sparing the normal tissue. Though at first glance it appears to be a surgery, it is actually an alternative treatment to surgery. Chris Taleghani, M.D., explains.
What is it? How does it work?
Stereotactic Radiosurgery is a treatment for cancerous or non-cancerous tumors, where focused radiation is selectively delivered into the affected tissue. The technique uses multiple intersecting beams or arcs to deliver high doses of radiation to the tumor, sparing the normal tissue. Though at first glance it appears to be a surgery, it is actually an alternative treatment to surgery. Exactly like traditional radiation treatments, this non-invasive treatment is used to stop the DNA growth of tumor cells. The use of each beam is dependent on the amount of radiation needed and the location of the affected area. The most common and widely used beam generator is the Gamma Knife. This technology has been in use for over forty years and is used on smaller tumors within the brain. The Gamma Knife itself is a fixed instrument, which allows for precise placement in such a small area.
It is crucial during this procedure that the individual remain perfectly still. The patient wears a head frame or halo during the procedure in order to stabilize the head and spine. Individuals remain awake during the treatment but may be relaxed with the use of medicine administered through an IV. Doctors can talk their patients through the entire treatment and it is virtually painless. The number of treatments an individual receives is dependent on the size of the growth.
What are the benefits?
As opposed to general radiation therapy, Stereotactic Radiosurgery only targets the cells of the tumor itself and leaves the healthy tissue that surrounds it virtually unharmed. This technology allows tumors that are in inoperable locations of the body to be reached by treatments. For example, tumor growths that are close to vital organs are also excellent candidates for this procedure as invasive surgery could lead to further complications. Typically those that receive Stereotactic Radiosurgery experience less negative side effects than those who undergo typical full body radiation treatments. However, this procedure is not always recommended as a first line of defense in many cases, or if the growth of tumors is not contained in a central area. Stereotactic Radiosurgery can be used as a follow up procedure instead of traditional radiation. Depending on the tumors, results can be seen within months of beginning treatment.
Is this treatment only for brain tumors?
Currently this form of treatment is being performed mainly on growths within the brain and limited location in the spine. It can be more difficult to immobilize other areas of the body because of the required precision and accuracy of this procedure. There is still a vast amount of potential that lies within the Stereotactic Radiosurgery technology to effectively treat tumors in other areas of the body.
What training is required for Neurosurgeons?
Neurosurgeons play a crucial role in the planning and administration of these treatments. They require extra knowledge and technology training to perform their duties accurately. I have been trained on multiple radiosurgery systems dating back to Gamma Knife training for over 15 years. Here in Nashville, we offer Stereotactic Radiosurgery using a robotic laser guided stereotactic system. This allows treatment to a wider variety of tumor locations and sites than the Gamma Knife.
Dr. Taleghani is a board certified neurosurgeon who specializes in minimally invasive surgery, including the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach. He received his Medical Degree at Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed his Neurosurgery Residency training at Pennsylvania State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
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