Surgeons have used gamma knife technology for years during delicate brain surgeries. It’s not a knife at all, but a focused beam of radiation that carries less risk of damaging nearby tissue. A new version of the knife is extending the therapy to patients who have had very few options, until now.
Joe Garrett and his wife, Cindy, built this backyard sanctuary to unwind and bird watch.
Until recently, even that simple pastime was complicated.
Joe explained, “I would look up in the air, and things didn’t seem right. So I would close my left eye.”
Cindy said, “I kept saying go get your eyes checked. Get ‘em checked. I think you need Lasik surgery again.”
Instead, doctors discovered Joe had a brain tumor. Surgery was not an option. The tumor was benign, but was wrapped around his optic nerve.
Joe said, “If it continued to grow it would cause blindness. It also affected other nerves. I could lose facial control.”
Shannon Kahn, M.D., is a radiation oncologist at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Kahn said just one year ago, the most cutting-edge treatments available would not have worked on Joe.
Dr. Kahn detailed, “Patients who have tumors in areas like the brain stem or next to the nerves that control vision, they use to not be candidates for gamma knife.”
The gamma knife allows technicians to deliver a focused, high dose of radiation. The newly updated Icon is even more accurate. Doctors could treat Joe’s tumor, without damaging his vision.
“Instead of doing his treatment over one session we divided it up over five, but he did extraordinarily well,” said Dr. Kahn.
Joe’s vision improved almost immediately. While a portion of the tumor remains, doctors say it will be controlled for the rest of his life.
In addition to the higher degree of accuracy during treatment, the Icon uses a mask, rather than a frame to track the patient’s tumor. A handful of research hospitals across the United States are currently using the Icon.