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About Gamma Knife®

Gamma Knife® surgery is a well-established method to treat selected targets in the brain; but it is not a knife. Instead, highly focused beams of radiation are directed to the treatment area in the brain.

The shape and dose of the radiation is designed to hit only the target without damaging surrounding healthy tissue. Gamma Knife® offers safe and effective treatment for more than 75,000 patients worldwide every year. The treatment procedure is simple, painless and straight forward.

Treatments

Gamma Knife® Centre of Queensland at the Princess Alexandra Hospital treats the following conditions:

  • metastatic tumours
  • acoustic neuroma
  • meningiomas
  • pituitary and parasellar tumours
  • small to medium intracranial ateriovenous malformations (AVMs)
  • trigeminal neuralgia and other neurological conditions
  • glomus tumours
  • gliomas
  • other selected benign and malignant conditions.

About the treatment

Before treatment

Your doctor will inform you about the entire procedure. Gamma Knife® treatment does not require cutting or shaving of your hair.

The head frame

A key component in Gamma Knife® is the headframe which allows the doctor to accurately pinpoint the target to be treated in your brain. This lightweight frame, which is attached to your head with four pins, prevents your head from moving during imaging and treatment procedures. Local anaesthetic is applied where the pins are to be attached.

Imaging

After the head frame is in place, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) will be done to determine the exact size, shape and position of the target in the brain.

Treatment planning

The imaging allows your physician to develop a precise and accurate treatment plan. Each treatment plan is unique and every patient’s plan is individually designed to address the specific medical condition. The doctor and other clinicians in radiation oncology plan your treatment on the computer and calculate how it will be delivered.

Treatment

After planning, your actual treatment can start. You will lie down on the treatment couch and the head frame will be fixed to the Gamma Knife®. You are awake during the procedure and will be able to communicate with your team through an audio connection. The couch moves into the circular dome and commences your silent and painless treatment which will last from a few minutes to more than an hour depending on the size of the treatment target. The team will monitor the treatment at all times.

After treatment

The head frame will be removed. Some patients may experience a mild headache or minor swelling where the frame was attached but this is temporary. Your doctor will tell you whether you can go home and return to normal routines or whether your treatment plan involves an inpatient stay.

What next?

On discharge, the nurse will provide you with the details of your follow-up appointments which will depend on the condition treated.

Meet the team

Matthew FooteA/Prof Matthew Foote

Radiation Oncologist

Extensive experience in stereotactic radiosurgery including Gamma Knife®. He trained in Gamma Knife® during his fellowship year at the Princess Margaret Hospital, Canada in 2010. In witnessing the benefits that this machine offered, he was instrumental in ensuring that Queensland patients had access to this state of the art service.

Bruce HallDr Bruce Hall

Neurosurgeon

Queensland trained, then worked at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, UK specialising in skull base tumours. He has over 20 years’ experience in stereotactic neurosurgery and the treatment of brain tumours at multiple centres including Princess Alexandra Hospital where he is Chairman of the unit. Dr Hall brings extensive clinical and academic experience and has a long history of supporting technological advances in Queensland Neurosurgery.

Mark PinkhamDr Mark Pinkham

Radiation Oncologist

Trained in Radiation Oncology in Brisbane having graduated from Oxford University in 2005. Completed 18 months neuro-oncology and stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) fellowship at the Christie Hospital, UK in 2015 which is the largest cancer hospital in Europe. He has a special interest in the management of brain metastases and integrating Gamma Knife® with other treatments.

Sarah OlsonDr Sarah Olson

Neurosurgeon

Extensive experience in stereotactic neurosurgery including pituitary disorders, deep brain stimulation and trigeminal neuralgia. She has witnessed the benefits of stereotactic Gamma Knife® radiosurgery at several institutions and is committed to seeing it be as successful at Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Angela McBeanMs Angela McBean

Gamma Knife CNC State-wide Care Coordinator

Extensive clinical and managerial experience, with over 7 years in the area of Cancer Nursing. Having worked at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London and Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, she has experience in all modalities of cancer treatment; including surgical oncology, chemotherapy and radiation oncology.

John ShakeshaftDr John Shakeshaft

Director – Therapeutic Physics

Extensive experience in the technical aspects of Stereotactic Radiosurgery Surgery. John worked as a Radiation Oncology Medical Physics (ROMP) in Bath and at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre (Liverpool) in the UK before moving to Australia in 2010. He is certified as a ROMP in both the UK and Australia and now leads the team of physicists at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Katrina BiggerstaffDr Katrina Biggerstaff

Medical Physicist

Completed her PhD in Biomedical Physics at the University of Queensland and post-doctoral research fellowship at the London Health Sciences Centre in Canada. Katrina is certified with the ACPSEM (Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine) and has experience in the commissioning of stereotactic radiosurgery systems where her primary role is to ensure that the safety and quality of radiation treatment meets international standards and regulations.

Michael JenkinsMr Michael Jenkins

Radiation Therapist

With 30 years’ experience as a radiation therapist, he has seen enormous technological advances in the field of radiation oncology. He has played a pivotal role in the clinical implementation of several major services, improving outcomes for Queensland patients and is proud to be part of the team establishing Gamma Knife® technology at the PA hospital.

Ryan LuskMr Ryan Lusk

Radiation Therapist

Ryan has over 18 years’ experience working as a radiation therapist in Queensland. In recent years he has held key roles in the implementation, planning and delivery of the Linac based stereotactic radiotherapy program at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Mair Emlyn-JonesMs Mair Emlyn-Jones

Nurse Unit Manager 

Extensive clinical and managerial experience in Radiation Oncology nursing in both the Public and Private sectors. Manages a highly skilled Nursing team who are committed to delivering the highest standards of patient care.

Last updated 11 December 2015
Last reviewed 15 May 2015

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