Gamma Knife technology treats 400th patient at PCMH

Written By  Beth Anne Atkins  on  June 8, 2009

 GREENVILLE —Doctors at Pitt County Memorial Hospital have performed more than 400 Gamma Knife procedures since starting the non-invasive treatment in 2005. The Gamma Knife procedure offers brain surgery patients treatment without a knife or an incision.

The Gamma Knife option for brain surgery offers many advantages over traditional, invasive brain surgery. Specifically, recovery time is notably shorter and less painful, and the results are excellent and well-validated over several decades. Furthermore, deep brain lesions that otherwise might not be operable now can be treated with precision.

Since PCMH began offering the Gamma Knife technology in fall 2005, the following diagnoses and quantities have been treated:
· Acoustic schwannoma: 20
· Astrocytoma: 4
· AVM: 6
· Glial tumor: 2
· Glioblastoma: 3
· Meningioma: 76
· Meningioma multiple: 15
· Metastasis multiple: 86
· Metastasis single: 83
· Other benign tumor: 2
· Other malignant tumor: 3
· Pineal region tumor: 2
· Pituitary adenoma: 12
· Trigeminal neuralgia: 86

Before a patient undergoes Gamma Knife surgery, a team of radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons prepares a detailed treatment plan based on comprehensive images of the patient’s brain, which can include a magnetic resonance image (MRI), computerized tomography, and/or angiography scan. This imaging information is used to direct the radiosurgery treatment with sub-millimeter accuracy.

This accuracy is due, in part, to a helmet that focuses the radiation beams on a particular target. Depending on the geometry and location of the lesion or target, physicians use multiple helmets to best localize the radiation dose. The helmets come in varying sizes to fit the different size heads of the patients.

“There is no other technology as accurate as the Gamma Knife,” said Dr. Barbara Lazio, director of the Gamma Knife program. “This is incredible technology. We can accurately focus the radiation to even small targets within the brain – even around the optic nerve itself.”
Gamma Knife gives surgeons the ability to treat abnormalities in the brain effectively without picking up a scalpel. Through stereotactic radiosurgery, physicians can destroy intracranial lesions by focusing multiple gamma rays on a precisely defined target.

The technique, which has been perfected over the past two decades, carries little risk of surgical complications. Because there is no incision in the scalp or skull, there is usually no need for general anesthesia. In most cases, patients experience little pain and are back on their feet within hours. They return home the same day in most cases and resume their normal routines in a few days.

“The addition of the Gamma Knife at PCMH has offered new hope for patients with brain lesions that were once considered inoperable,” said Phyllis DeAntonio, administrator of cancer services at PCMH. “The use of Gamma Knife can alleviate much of the pain, scarring and long recovery time associated with conventional open-brain surgery.”

For more information on Gamma Knife, visit


University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina Inc., a mission-driven, not-for-profit corporation, owns, leases or has a majority membership interest in six eastern North Carolina hospitals and has management agreements with two others. UHS includes Albemarle Health, Bertie Memorial Hospital, Chowan Hospital, Duplin General Hospital, Heritage Hospital, Outer Banks Hospital, Pitt County Memorial Hospital, Roanoke-Chowan Hospital, University Home Health and Hospice; ViQuest; and physician practices and is affiliated with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.