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Gamma Knife Offers Noninvasive Treatment for Vascular Disorders, Brain Tumors

one patient and the Gamma Knife for another patient.”

In Ms. Coit’s case, no incision was necessary for the 75-minute treatment in UT Southwestern’s new Gamma Knife suite that opened last December. The college student reclined on a treatment couch and listened to a boom box playing a mix tape she had made of her favorite songs. Her head was immobilized in a stereotactic head frame whose coordinates provide a reference grid to allow doctors to pinpoint the radiation beams to the target area. It’s all done by computer. Ms. Coit was able to go home a few hours after the procedure. Four days later, the Texas Tech University business management senior was celebrating her 21st birthday.

“I hope this will take care of it, and I will no longer have these terrible migraine headaches,” she said.

Dr. Robert Timmerman, vice chairman of radiation oncology, supervises most of the Gamma Knife procedures at UT Southwestern. He has treated more than 1,000 patients with the Gamma Knife during his career and is considered one of the top international experts on stereotactic radiosurgery.

“The beauty of the Gamma Knife is that you can treat incredibly small targets with a precision of one-tenth of a millimeter,” said Dr. Timmerman. “This minimizes the risk of damage to healthy tissue next to the target. In addition, we can block selected radiation beams to limit exposure to the target and spare other areas, such as the optic nerve.”

A few hours before treatment, Ms. Coit underwent an angiogram and a magnetic resonance imaging scan of her brain, giving her team of physicians up-to-date diagnostic data to locate the precise target area for the treatment. The scans are entered into a computer program offering a three-dimensional image of the AVM in her brain and allowing her doctors, assisted by a radiation physicist, to chart the coordinates for the powerful Gamma Knife beams.

“The Gamma Knife was the safest option
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