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Local Hospital has New Gamma Knife

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta is the first hospital in the state to present Georgians with a new option in noninvasive, incision-free brain surgery. The oldest hospital in the city, St. Joseph’s was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1880 and now offers four hundred and ten beds to acute patient care. Now it confirms its reputation as one of the leading referral specialty hospitals in the Southeast as it installs its new Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion.

The Gamma Knife is a device which allows physicians to isolate and destroy both benign and malignant brain tumors, as well as helping to treat certain neurological conditions such as pain and movement disorders, which would be unreachable through traditional surgery. They achieve this through the use of an array of focused gamma radiation which when combined with advanced brain imaging techniques, focuses precisely on abnormal structures in the brain and destroys the targeted area while leaving the surrounding areas of the brain largely unharmed. It accomplishes this in one session, with one dose of radiation. This ability makes it one of the most advanced treatment options available in the treatment of brain tumors.

It is considered a “gentler alternative to traditional brain surgery” according to hospital officials. Unlike traditional brain surgery, there is no need for incisions, and it is not necessary to risk damage to other areas because the individual rays are too weak on their own to harm tissue, instead only destroying cells where they converge under the guidance of precise computer generated imaging. It removes the necessity that a surgeon be able to physically reach the problem.

The Atlanta hospital launched its radio surgery program in 2004. Since then the specialists there have treated over six hundred patients. It is one of only four radio surgery programs in the state of Georgia to offer this alternative to traditional surgery, and the first to feature this new technology.

The staff at St. Joseph’s is understandably excited by the new possibilities that this offers them in the care and treatment of their patients. The upgrade grants them the potential to treat a growing range of problems.

“We are thrilled to be the first in Georgia to offer this treatment option for our patients,” said the manager of the Gamma Knife program at St. Joseph’s, Rebecca Heitkam. “With the upgrade to Perfexion, we will be able to reach and treat lesions that previously were unattainable.”

The practice of Gamma Knife radio surgery is not new, dating back to 1967 when the technique was invented by Lars Leksell in Stockholm, Sweden. However, each new generation of technology allows for greater and greater results. That first unit was suitable only for the functional brain surgery, for use treating pain, movement and certain behavioral disorders. This new Gamma Knife Perfexion unit allows doctors to reach new levels of effectiveness and efficiency in quickly identifying, scheduling and treating an increasingly wider range of diseases and troubling abnormalities which could not be managed or removed with other strategies. I share in Joseph’s excitement at having the new unit in Atlanta.