TechSectors: On the Cutting Edge With Gamma Knife Technology

In October, Intermountain Healthcare is unveiling the Intermountain Medical Center as its new flagship facility. The John and Karen Huntsman Cancer Center is one of five distinct hospital...

In October, Intermountain Healthcare is unveiling the Intermountain Medical Center as its new flagship facility. The John and Karen Huntsman Cancer Center is one of five distinct hospital facilities that make up Intermountain’s new medical campus. The new Cancer Center includes an 11,000-square-foot radiation oncology department that houses two new linear accelerators along with state-of-the-art stereotactic radio surgery. The center also offers new-generation gamma knife technology.

The gamma knife radiation delivery system is considered the gold standard in treating small cancers of the head and neck. Intermountain Medical Center’s Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion is a re-engineered model that provides faster, more flexible cancer treatment by allowing cancer experts to target areas in the head and upper neck that were difficult to treat with previous versions of the gamma knife.

Purpose

Gamma knife technology allows physicians to treat brain tumors and cancers of the head and neck without surgery or even a scalpel. The machine delivers radiation for most benign and malignant brain tumors that otherwise can’t be reached because of their size and location. The Gamma Knife Perfexion directs 192 precise beams of radiation toward the treatment target within the brain, which allows for effective, yet non-invasive treatment of lesions inside the skull, without even the need to shave the patient's hair.

During Treatment

The patient is provided a local anesthetic and fitted with a head frame that prevents the head from moving and directs the radiation beams with more precision. An MRI or CT scan is then performed to determine the size, shape, and position of the target lesion. While the patient rests, the neurosurgeon and radiation oncologist will define the intricate path the radiation beams must travel for a safe and successful treatment. Patients are awake during treatment and able to communicate, and have the option of listening to music to help with relaxation.

Treatment runs from a few minutes to more than an hour, depending on target size and shape. Following the session, patients can go home that day and return to a normal routine in about a day.

Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion

The Perfexion improves upon previous technology by delivering three main benefits:

• Increases the ability of medical experts to deliver exactly the right dose of radiation to exactly the right target

• Expands the treatment range, so lesions in the base of the skull and even the cervical spine can be treated

• Makes treatment more comfortable for patients and allows for shorter treatment times

Gamma knife technology has been used for 30 years to treat more than 350,000 patients around the world. Intermountain Medical Center’s new gamma knife is only the second of its type in the US and the fi rst gamma knife in Utah. It represents the most accurate, thorough, and advanced version of gamma radiation technology.

Bob Mendenhall is the Director of Radiation Therapy, Urban Central Region, Intermountain Healthcare.