Thursday, August 5, 2010


In what’s claimed to be probably the first scalpel-free surgery, Australian scientists have used a “gamma knife” - a non-invasive neurosurgical tool - to treat a brain cancer patient.
An international team has carried out the treatment at Macquarie University Hospital in Sydney, using the Gamma Knife for treating brain cancer and a range of other brain-related disorders.

Despite its name, it is not a cutting implement and there is no blood or incision involved in treatment. Instead, some 200 radiation beams from cobalt-60 sources converge with high accuracy on the target inside the brain.

Each individual beam has low intensity and therefore does not affect the tissue through which it passes on its way to the target. The beams converge in an isocentre where the cumulative radiation intensity becomes extremely high.

Neurosurgeon John Fuller, who treated the first patient in Australia with the device, said gamma knife treatment is very different to traditional neurosurgery. “Although our first patient had tumours in multiple parts of his brain, we only needed to do one operation lasting an hour or so, no scalpel was used, the patient was awake throughout the entire procedure and only received a local anaesthetic, and he went home last night having been treated in an out-patient setting,” he said.

Fuller said the low impact nature of the treatment on the patient has a range of the flow-on benefits for their families, the medical treatment team and the wider healthcare system.

“Patients who receive Gamma Knife treatment have fewer complications than traditional neurosurgery patients undergoing a craniotomy reducing the need for hospitalisation and intensive care. Now with the Gamma Knife we can offer treatment and along with that hope that the patient’s life may not only be extended, but also that their remaining time will involve a much better quality of life,” he added.

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