High-tech medical assistance: What is a gamma knife and how does it help in surgery

High-tech medical assistance: What is a gamma knife and how does it help in surgery
With the help of gamma rays, this high-tech medical tool can remove benign and malignant brain tumours in a noninvasive way.

About 1,700 brain surgeries have been performed at the Sklifosovsky Research Institute of Emergency Medicine with the help of the Gamma-Knife. The first surgery of this kind was performed in April, 2016. This high-tech neurosurgical tool can remove benign and malignant tumours and treat vascular conditions in the brain. This procedure is noninvasive, which means that doctors do not have to use sutures or any other surgical tools.

This method often becomes the only possible way of treating patients with malignant tumours. Moreover, patients that were operated noninvasively experience easier and quicker recovery than after surgeries performed with regular methods.

Moscow is the only Russian city to have two unique modern Gamma-Knife machines. One of them is at the Sklifosovsky Research Institute of Emergency Medicine.

“High-tech surgery performed with the the most sophisticated equipment is becoming increasingly available for Muscovites,” said Alexei Khripun, a Moscow Government minister and the Head of the Department of Healthcare.

“Over the course of the past seven years, the number of such surgeries has quadrupled. All these surgeries, including those performed with the Gamma-Knife, or, say, the Da Vinci surgical system, are performed on Muscovites with relevant medical conditions without charge. The number of similar machines in Moscow hospitals will soon be increased.”

Gamma knife surgery is performed at the hospital’s radiosurgery centre by a specialised team of medical experts that includes a neurosurgeon, a radiologists and a medical physicist.

Instead of a regular lancet, doctors use the gamma knife , which delivers a dose of radiation, tightly focused with computer gamma rays to the affected areas of the brain, thus destroying the DNA of the tumour without damaging the surrounding tissue. The surgery takes from 20 minutes to four hours, while patients remain conscious. Since it is performed on an outpatient basis, there is no need for hospitalisation. The procedure is completely painless and easy to tolerate.

Shortly after the surgery, patients can go home without worrying about inflammation or complications. Radiosurgical procedures can be performed even on children as young as 5-7 as the process of skull mineralisation is complete. The treatment does not result in immediate effect: the area that had been subject to gamma radiation keeps slowly decreasing in size in the course of several weeks or months, depending on the type of tumour.

In all the time that the Sklifosovsky Institute’s radiosurgery centre specialists have been performing these surgeries, they have patented a number of their own developments that allow increasing gamma knife efficiency and reducing the patients’ exposure to radiation to a minimum.

High-tech medical assistance in Moscow is provided for citizens diagnosed with complex diseases. Such patients are treated with the help of cellular and information technologies, robotic equipment and genetic engineering treatment. Any Moscow resident referred from an out-patient clinic where they were diagnosed can receive this type of medical assistance for free.

In most cases, high-tech surgery is a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure and the surgery is conducted with the help of X-ray and MRI equipment. Since 2013, Moscow’s Botkin hospital has been using the Da Vinci robotic system to perform urological, abdominal and hepatopancreatobiliary surgeries (involving the liver, bile duct or pancreas) as well as gynaecological surgeries.