The University of Mississippi Medical Center is home to the Gamma Knife. There are only about 100 models in the country, 20 that are made like the one in Jackson.
The Gamma Knife is a new radiosurgery equipment that is offering new hope to Mississippians that suffer from brain tumors or bran metastases. It is housed at the UMMC Cancer Institute inside the Jackson Medical Mall.
The device is made up of three components:
- There is the housing of the radioactive sources arranged in a dome. This dome contains 192 small sources of Cobalt-60
- The second component is the couch that moves the patient from side to side.
- The third component is a CT-scanner. This is a new addition to the model, and there are very few other machines that have this addition. They use it to scan the patient in real time to ensure there are no movements that would disrupt the radiosurgery.
Once a patient is either fitted with a personalized mask, or a frame (that is typically more invasive) and that secured to the machine as it calculates where to deliver maximum radiation by choosing which “holes” to point from.
The mask is a mesh like mold of the person’s head that fits over the face and head during treatment. Anesthesia is also available for patents who are claustrophobic.
“The idea is that there is radiation coming from the sources that converge in one spot, in the center of the dome,” said Dr. Roberto Rey-Dios who has done more than 200 Gamma Knife surgeries including the 35 at UMMC.
The Gamma Knife is recommended for patients with:
- Benign or malignant brain tumors
- Metastasis of other cancers to the brain
- Certain blood vessel disorders of the brain
- Some types of cancer of the eye
- Epilepsy caused by a brain tumor
- Trigeminal neuralagia, a nerve disorder that causes facial pain.
“We can be very very precise because we scan just before we treat the patient so that we can confirm the position. The second uniqueness is the mask, the frame is good but can be an inconvenience. With the mask you can get the same precision, but you can do it over multiple days and that’s what some patients prefer,” said Dr. Srinivasan Vijayakumar, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology
This machine is an alternative to surgery or whole brain radiation for metastatic disease. 35 patients are known to have been treated in Mississippi at UMMC with the Gamma Knife since it came to the state in May. The machine costs around $4.5 million to be installed.
Dr. Vijayakumar said that they have yet to use the machine on children but hope to soon make that transition.