Patient Guide

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What to expect during Gamma Knife treatment

We want you to know what to expect and feel comfortable about the Gamma Knife procedure. You should plan to be at the Memphis Regional Gamma Knife Center for four to six hours. A family member should accompany you and plan to remain with you the entire day. If you have any questions after reading this Gamma Knife Patient's Guide, please call us at 901.726.6444.

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A Stereotactic Head Frame is attached for precise treatment

After you're admitted to the Memphis Regional Gamma Knife Center, you will be carefully fitted with a head-guiding device called a stereotactic frame. The frame positions your head inside the collimator helmet during Gamma Knife treatment. A small amount of local anesthetic will be injected to numb the skin where the stereotactic frame's four pins attach to your skull. Anesthetic is used so the patient experiences as little discomfort as possible. This guiding device will be removed after the Gamma Knife treatment is complete.

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Your treatment is tailored to your individual condition

To define the location, size, shape and nature of lesions or abnormalities, a number of advanced imaging tests such as computed tomography (CAT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and/or cerebral angiography studies are performed.

If you have a brain tumor your Gamma Knife nurse, doctor or technician will wheel you to the MRI area of the hospital, which is immediately next door to the Gamma Knife suite. There you will have several MRI images taken. When completed, your nurse or technician will return you to the Gamma Knife suite. CT images may also be required.

If you have an arteriovenous malformation - an artery and vein that have not formed properly - you may have an angiogram. A catheter will be inserted into an artery in your groin. X-rays will be taken of dye injections that help determine the exact position of the artery and vein formation. Before the day of your procedure, your doctor will discuss these procedures with you in more detail and advise you of any risks associated with these imaging studies.

For your comfort, you will receive a mild anesthetic and sedative. After the tests are completed, you can relax in the pre-treatment suite while the Gamma Knife Center team of specialists designs a customized dose plan.

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Gamma Knife Treatment Planning

After imaging, you will return to the Gamma Knife suite. A plastic helmet is fitted over your head frame for precise head contour measurements. During this time, your neurosurgeon, a radiation physicist and other trained staff will examine the imaging studies and plan your Gamma Knife radiosurgical treatment.

Your nurse will be available during this time to monitor your comfort. We encourage you to bring your favorite CDs or tapes to play on our stereo. Many patients choose to simply nap during this planning time, which can range from one to four hours.

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Gamma Knife Treatment

You are now ready to be taken into the treatment room where you will be placed on the Gamma Knife bed and moved into the treatment position. While reclining on the Gamma Knife bed, your head will be fitted with a collimator helmet. Ports covering the helmet's surface allow the designated amount of radiation prescribed by your neurosurgeon to be aimed at the target area. After you are properly aligned, the bed advances until your head is inside a shielded sphere, which contains the radiation sources. Your doctor and nurse will leave you in the room and move to the control area for your procedure. Throughout the treatment you can communicate with your team of specialists through visual monitoring and two-way voice communication. If you brought CDs or tapes, we can continue to play your favorite music.

Next, the Gamma Knife instrument delivers the prescribed dosage of radiation from as many as 201 cobalt-60 sources of approximately 30 Curies each, arrayed over the collimator helmet's spherical surface. While each source or beam produces a small dose of radiation, it is where these beams intersect that radiation is delivered to treat tumors or malformations. You will hear clicking sounds as the Gamma Knife door opens and allows the precise amount of radiation through the opened helmet holes. You will not hear or feel the treatment as it is being performed. The actual Gamma Knife treatment usually lasts less than 45 minutes, with little patient discomfort.

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Post Gamma Knife Treatment

Once the Gamma Knife treatment is complete, the Gamma Knife bed will return to the starting position. The Gamma Knife door will close, and your nurse and doctor will once again enter the room. The head frame will be removed, and each pin site will have a dressing applied where needed. You will be taken back to the hospital's Ambulatory Surgery Area for monitoring. If you have had an angiogram, you will need to lie flat in bed for eight hours. Some Gamma Knife patients may need to remain overnight in the hospital for continued observation. Immediate adverse side effects rarely occur and most patients are usually discharged from the hospital within 24 hours. Your neurosurgeon and Gamma Knife nurse will give you follow up care and special instructions.

As with any radiation treatment, the results are not immediately apparent. Gamma Knife treatment attempts to inhibit lesion enlargement, and shrinkage often occurs as early as four to six weeks after the procedure. Examinations by your neurosurgeon and imaging studies are part of routine after-treatment care to monitor the status of lesions and abnormalities.

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How to Prepare Yourself for Gamma Knife Treatment

Following are some guidelines for how to prepare yourself for Gamma Knife surgery. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call us at 901.726.6444.

Night before Gamma Knife surgery

Day of Gamma Knife surgery

You will have an intravenous (IV) line started in your arm. This will allow you to receive fluids and medications to help you relax. Yes, your mouth will feel dry but we cannot allow you to have water yet.

Your nurse will wheel you to the Gamma Knife suite on a stretcher where you will begin the program. For most patients a blood pressure cuff, oxygen monitor and EKG monitor will be attached to monitor vital signs through the day.

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Risks of Gamma Knife treatment

Before your Gamma Knife procedure, your doctor will discuss with you any risks and/or side effects you may have with this procedure. Be sure to ask your doctor any questions you may have before the procedure begins.

Risks are thoroughly explained on your informed consent page. You may resume taking your daily-prescribed medications unless the doctor tells you otherwise.

Should side effects occur, please call the Memphis Regional Gamma Knife Center at 901.726.6444 so an appointment can be scheduled if necessary.

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Memphis Regional Gamma Knife Center offers superior service

Your private physician or neurosurgeon can schedule your procedure at the Memphis Regional Gamma Knife Center by calling us at 901.726.6444. Please confirm your appointment date with your doctor.

A family member or close friend should accompany you to the Methodist University Hospital the day of your Gamma Knife procedure and plan to remain with you the entire day. Your Gamma Knife neurosurgeon will visit with your family or friends after the procedure to update them on your condition.

The Memphis Regional Gamma Knife Center accepts most insurance plans. If you would like to verify if the center recognizes your specific insurance, please contact us at 901.726.6444, fill out the form here.

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To be admitted for Gamma Knife treatment, visit the Admissions Department in Methodist University Hospital

Please enter the Methodist University Hospital through the main entrance (See the hospital map for specific directions). Ask the front desk personnel for directions to the Admissions Department. After the Admissions Department admits you to the hospital, you will be directed to the Ambulatory Surgery Department.

Your neurosurgeon will tell you when to arrive at the hospital and what items, if any, to bring. Please refer to What to Expect During a Gamma Knife Procedure for more details.

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Parking for patients, friends and family is conveniently located near the treatment center

Please refer to the Methodist University Hospital of Memphis - Central map for various parking facilities near the hospital and directions to the hospital. Personnel at the hospital's main entrance or personnel from the Memphis Regional Gamma Knife Center are more than happy to suggest where to park depending upon your needs.

Local cab companies are also available to assist you with transportation.

Feel free to call us at 901.726.6444 if you have questions about motel accommodations, travel plans or restaurants in the Memphis area.

Memphis Regional Gamma Knife Center, LLC
1211 Union Avenue, Suite 220
Memphis, Tennessee 38104