Changing the game: Non-invasive brain surgery

“The Gamma Knife Icon – the most advanced, noninvasive form of brain surgery in the world, is already exceeding expectations,” says Dr. Keith Aronyk, Clinical Department Head for Neurosciences at the University of Alberta Hospital.

Gamma Knife works by providing 201 beams of precise radiation on specific areas of the brain. It’s a valuable tool for doctors to treat patients of all ages who may have small, hard to reach tumours or malformations.

This precise radiation allows surgeons to “zap” problem areas that may have been affected by cancer, and avoid damage to critical areas of the brain that impact speech, memory and creativity. This is good news for patients with non-brain originating cancers, such as patients with breast or lung cancer that has spread to their brain.

“We knew what it could do for patients with tumours and malformations on the brain, but we didn’t expect it to be such a powerful treatment for cancer patients,” says Dr. Aronyk.

And most amazing of all, this definitive treatment normally takes place in a single day, making it outpatient treatment.

“When patients come in for traditional brain surgery, they could be here for days, weeks, or maybe even months. When you take recovery from surgery, rehab, and all those pieces into consideration, that’s a significant difference in time. This is to the advantage of patients, families, as well as the healthcare system as a whole.”

– Daphne Quigley, Patient Care Manager for Neurosciences

Donors make it possible

The $17.5 million Scott and Brown Families Advanced Imaging & Gamma Knife Centre was fully funded by donors to the University Hospital Foundation’s Brain Centre Campaign. Donors like Ken and Leona Biggs.

“This is a very exciting piece of the Brain Centre Campaign, but it isn’t the final piece,” says Ken Biggs. “And what it can do for patients at the University of Alberta Hospital is incredible.”

“I can’t believe some of the technology they have here now,” says Leona Biggs. “What the Gamma Knife can do for brain patients is like magic.”

And the best part is, this non-invasive brain surgery provides definitive treatment within a few hours – a procedure that would have previously taken weeks, months or even years with traditional brain surgery.

“And from a patient’s point of view it’s the perfect situation,” says Daphne Quigley, Patient Care Manager for Neurosciences. “Patients can move from imaging to the Gamma Knife in seconds, rather than travelling across the entire hospital.”

“This is the perfect set up,” adds Dr. Aronyk. “We have the best in imaging and the best in radiosurgery. We never dreamed that they’d be only a few feet apart.”

“When I see those patients walk through the doors, the same day that they have received Gamma Knife treatment, it thrills me,” concludes Dr. Aronyk.

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