Acoustic Neuroma: Should You Try the Gamma Knife Treatment?

November 12, 2012

Acoustic Neuroma: Should You Try the Gamma Knife Treatment?

In a nutshell, an acoustic neuroma refers to a tumor in the skull that is usually benign and grows slowly. However, nobody likes to hear that they have a tumor in their brain – let alone one as uncommon as this – so it only makes sense if you are worried about the treatments for it out there. Well, the truth is that thousands of American patients get diagnosed for acoustic neuroma every year. The good news is that there are a lot of low-risk and effective treatments for it out there.

The Gamma Knife

In Sweden of 1951, a neurosurgeon named Lars Leksell came up with the idea to let converging ionizing radiation beams crossfire certain targets inside the brain to treat deep-seated tumors as needed. A prototype for his idea was created in 1967 and it effectively treated acoustic neuroma in thousands of patients worldwide after that. This device is now known as the Gamma Knife. For it to work, the Gamma Knife has to be spherically arranged around the person’s head to emit high-energy gamma radiation into it. The beams will then focus on a single point and destroy the tumor’s cell molecules to prevent them from reproducing and to make them die out. This treatment does not cause any biological effects and does not harm any surrounding sensitive structures, either.

Can Anybody be Treated with It?

Generally speaking, any acoustic tumor with a diameter of less than 3cm can be treated with the Gamma Knife. However, even patients with bigger tumors should consult their doctors and request for the Gamma Knife first before opting for microsurgery since the former is much less demanding overall. Besides, microsurgery is known to pose greater risks to a person’s health than brain tumors themselves, so why would you want to go down that road to begin with?

The Gamma Knife vs. Microsurgery

The Gamma Knife is different than microsurgery in many ways. For starters, its risks in both the short term and the long term are incredibly low. Second of all, instead of destroying the tumor itself, the Gamma Knife’s overall goal is to simply inactivate or kill of the cells of the tumor to stop them from duplicating. Well, acoustic neuroma happens to be very benign, so it actually doesn’t need to be totally destroyed. All it needs is to stop growing, so that the patient remains healthy – and the Gamma Knife does exactly that. Aside from that, if the tumor didn’t respond the way it should have, the Gamma Knife can be done to treat acoustic neuroma again without any increased risks. In fact, probably the only downside that comes with the Gamma Knife would be the fact that its overall effects aren’t as immediate as that of microsurgery. However, with time, it will effectively control the growth of the tumor and prevent potential growth in the future. Overall, the Gamma Knife has a lot of other significant advantages when compared to microsurgery, as well, including shorter inpatient time, no recovery period, no mortality, no complications after surgery and no risk of brain infections or bleeding. The Gamma Knife also completely eliminates the overall risk of the need for more surgery and permanent facial weakness.

All of these reasons in themselves are usually enough to convince those who have acoustic neuroma to opt for the Gamma Knife instead of microsurgery. Naturally, the patient’s decision should mostly focus on how to get rid of the tumor’s overall effects on the their health and the risk of any disturbances in nearby structures, like its surrounding nerves in the brain, though.

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