Gamma Knife - What to Expect

Before Your Surgery

You will meet with your neurosurgeon before your treatment to discuss the procedure. Gamma knife surgery does not require cutting or shaving your hair.

Before starting treatment, your doctors will take images of your brain to determine the exact size, shape and position of the target. This information allows them to develop a precise treatment plan that addresses your specific condition. You’ll also:

  • Have any necessary lab work completed.
  • Get answers to any questions you may have.

The Night Before

  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • Wash your hair with your regular shampoo.
  • Do not use conditioner on your hair.
  • If you need pain medication, take it with a sip of water, and tell your nurse when you arrive.
  • Bring someone with you the day of your procedure to drive you home.

The Morning Of Treatment

  • Take your regular medications with a sip of water.
  • If your medications irritate your stomach, you may eat a cracker.
  • Do not wear makeup, hairspray, gel or mousse, jewelry or a watch.
  • Bring your insurance cards and photo identification.
  • Bring any recent MRIs, if necessary.
  • You may bring a CD to play music during treatment.

The Treatment

On the day of your treatment, staff will first attach a lightweight headframe to your head. This prevents your head from moving so that the radiation can be delivered accurately. You may be given a mild sedative before the headframe is attached to reduce any discomfort.

Next, the headframe is attached to the gamma knife unit. You will then be moved into position with a remote-controlled positioning system. Then, up to 201 beams of radiation are delivered to the targeted area in your head. The treatment is silent and totally painless. Often, you will be able to listen to music during the process.

The size and shape of the areas being treated determines how long your procedure will last. Your medical team will continually monitor your vital signs and stay in contact with you through an audio and video connection.

After Treatment

After the treatment is complete, the headframe will be removed. Some patients have a mild headache or minor swelling where the headframe was attached, but most report no problems.

Your doctor will decide whether you need to stay overnight for observation or if you can go home. You should be able to return to your normal routines in a day or so.

The effects of your treatment will occur over time. Radiation treatments are designed to stop the growth of tumors or lesions, which means that the effect will happen over a period of weeks or months. Your doctor will monitor your progress. Follow-up may include MRI, CT or angiography images.

Read our gamma-knife post-operative instructions

Learn more about gamma knife technology:

  • The International Radiosurgery Support Association to is an independent organization dedicated to providing information, support and physician and site referrals on radiosurgery.
  • Elekta, manufacturer of the Leksell Gamma Knife Unit, provides information on outcomes, the treatment process and photos of the procedure.

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