What Are the Side Effects of Gamma Knife Surgery?

seek a second opinion for brain tumor diagnosisGamma Knife Radiosurgery is not actually surgery at all. Gamma Knife is typically a one-time outpatient treatment that uses high-dose ionizing radiation. Gamma Knife is used to kill or shrink non-cancerous and metastatic tumors in the brain. It can also be used to treat other physiological conditions, such as trigeminal neuralgia. It does not involve any incisions or general anesthesia. (Read more about common Gamma Knife misconceptions.)

Because no incisions are required, the radiosurgery used at Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center comes with much less risk than traditional brain surgery. Although uncommon, traditional brain tumor surgery can lead to bleeding, infection and adverse reactions to general anesthesia. These are not risks associated with Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. Gamma Knife Radiosurgery does have some side effects you’ll want to be aware of so you know what to expect and can alert your physician to anything out of the ordinary.


Short-Term Side Effects of Gamma Knife Surgery

Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center patients go home the same day as their Gamma Knife treatment. The most commonly reported side effects are mild and short-lived. They usually clear up within a few days of the procedure and can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Mild swelling of the forehead and eyelids
  • Temporary numbness of the scalp

Other short-term side effects that are uncommon but still possible include:

  • Skin irritation near the treatment site
  • Seizure


Delayed Side Effects of Gamma Knife Treatment

It’s possible, although rare, to experience side effects from treatment with Gamma Knife well after the procedure. Delayed side effects can include:

  • Swelling in the brain
  • Hair loss near the treated area, if close to the scalp. It will regrow on its own.
  • Radiation necrosis, which is the death of brain tissue at or near the treatment site. It can occur months or years after radiosurgery and is usually treated with steroids.

When to Call the Doctor About Side Effects

Complications arising from Gamma Knife Radiosurgery are rare, but call your Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center doctor if you have:

  • Pain at the points where the head frame was attached that does not improve or gets worse
  • A fever of 100.5 or greater
  • Severe headache or any headache that does not improve within 48 hours
  • Balance problems
  • Weakness in your arms or legs
  • Cognitive changes, such as confusion or disorientation
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting that does not go away
  • Prolonged numbness



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