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Information for patients

Introduction and decision making

Your doctor plays an important role in the referral process and will be consulted during all phases of your treatment.

Patients who are referred to Gamma Knife® Centre of Queensland (GKCoQ) are reviewed at our multidisciplinary team meeting. This meeting is attended by a number of specialised staff, including:

  • neurosurgeons
  • radiation oncologists
  • physicists
  • neuro-radiologists
  • neuro-oncologists
  • nurses
  • radiation therapists.

These professionals evaluate each patient's condition and make a decision regarding whether Gamma Knife® treatment is suitable. Gamma Knife® treatment consists of a single session which is almost always performed as an outpatient procedure.

Your outpatient appointment

Once our multidisciplinary team has decided to treat your condition, you will attend an outpatient appointment at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. If you live in a remote location, this consultation may be carried out via video conferencing at your local hospital if the facility is available.

The doctor will explain the entire process of Gamma Knife® treatment, including risks and benefits to you, and answer any questions you may have.

Please bring a list of all medications you are currently taking to this appointment so that the doctor can advise if you need to stop any of them before your treatment.

At this meeting you will:

  • be asked to sign an informed consent
  • meet the Gamma Knife Care Coordinator who will provide you with important contact details and further patient information material that you can refer to at any time
  • have the opportunity to ask questions or raise any concerns relating to the Gamma Knife® treatment.

If possible, it is a good idea to have someone accompany you to this appointment.

Your treatment day

When you arrive

On the day of treatment you will report to the Radiation Oncology reception. From here, a nurse will greet you and take you through to the Gamma Knife® treatment suite where they will verify your personal details, complete a short check list and take your vital signs. If you have not yet completed an informed consent, this will also be obtained at this time.

We recommend that you do not wear any make-up, jewellery, hair pieces/pins on the day of your treatment. You may be asked to remove your contact lenses, eyeglasses, and dentures prior to fitting the head frame.

The doctor will insert a small needle (cannula) into a vein in your arm.

Planning

Neurosurgical staff will fit the head frame for Gamma Knife® treatment under local anaesthetic. The head frame is a guiding device to ensure the Gamma Knife® beams are focused accurately on the target area to be treated. The frame is light weight and does not cause any discomfort or pain. This frame will remain in place for the duration of the Gamma Knife® treatment.

Following the fitting of the headframe, you will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scan. These scans provide the Gamma Knife® team with a road map from which they can precisely plan your treatment, which can take 1 to 2 hours. During this time, you will rest in the comfortable waiting room where you can watch a movie, read a book, talk with your guests or simply rest.

Treatment

After planning is completed, your treatment on the Gamma Knife® machine begins. You will proceed to the treatment room where you will be positioned on your back on the treatment couch. At this point, treatment staff will then leave the room to administer your treatment. The room is fitted with cameras which allow the treatment staff to see you throughout the entire treatment. You will also be able to communicate with your team through an audio connection in the room. The couch moves into the circular dome and commences your silent and painless treatment, which can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour depending on the size of the treatment target.

After treatment

Following the completion of the treatment, the head frame will be removed by the neurosurgical team. In some instances, patients have complained of a mild headache, some nausea or minor swelling after the frame has been removed, however, this should only be temporary. You will be asked to remain in the Gamma Knife® treatment suite so that the nurse can monitor you for a short period following the removal of the head frame. You will then be allowed to go home, however, someone will need to escort you.

Follow-up

On discharge, the nurse will provide you with the details of your follow-up appointments. Your follow-up schedule and any further imaging, will be determined by the condition that you have had treated. While extremely rare, if you do experience any side effects that were not explained to you during your education sessions, or become very unwell, you should present immediately to the nearest emergency department.

Patient information

Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme

All Australian states and territories have schemes that subsidise travel and accommodation expenses incurred by patients who need to travel long distances for specialist treatment:

Things to remember

  • Gamma Knife® treatment does not require any cutting or shaving of your hair.
  • Gamma Knife® treatment does not cause you to lose your hair.
  • The Gamma Knife® rays used in the treatment do not remain in your body and you will not be radioactive.
  • Most patients do not suffer from any serious side effects related to Gamma Knife® treatment.
  • If you feel well enough you can return to work and travel almost immediately after you have finished your treatment, however, any driving restrictions already in place will continue to apply.
  • Even though you remain in the Gamma Knife® treatment suite for 5 to 6 hours the actual radiation treatment usually takes less than an hour.
  • If you suffer from claustrophobia it is important you inform the doctor of this during your Gamma Knife® Centre of Queensland outpatient appointment. This will allow the team to prescribe a light sedation for you to take on the day of your treatment.
Last updated 11 January 2016
Last reviewed 18 May 2015

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