Dialog Box

Gamma Knife surgery treating tremor and pain

The Gamma Knife is a revolutionary piece of medical equipment available in only three locations in Australia, one of those places being Brisbane’s PA Hospital.

Gamma Knife surgery is a well-established method to treat selected tumour targets in the brain; but it is not a knife. Instead, highly focused beams of radiation are directed to the targeted treatment area.
The shape and dose of the radiation is designed to hit only the target without damaging surrounding healthy tissue. Best of all, the treatment procedure is simple, minimally invasive, and straight forward.

Associate Professor Matthew Foote with the Gamma Knife and staff from the PA Hospital's Gamma Knife Centre of Queensland.

Not only does the Gamma Knife treat a range of benign and malignant brain tumours but it’s also an established method for treating Parkinson’s like tremor and other forms of brain related tremor.

The PA’s Gamma Knife Centre of Queensland is one of only two centres in the country treating tremor and has restored a level of quality of life to over 40 patients already.

“It's for the patients where for them medications are no longer effective and the options beyond Gamma Knife would include deep brain stimulation, which involves inserting probes into the brain,” PA’s Gamma Knife Director Associate Professor Matthew Foote said.

“I guess the difficulty with that is people need to be fit enough to undergo that procedure and many of the people with essential tremor or bad tremor are not fit enough to undergo that operation, so this is a very good alternative for those people.

“The advantage is it's a relatively non-invasive procedure where a frame is attached to the head and our neurosurgeon Dr Sarah Olson has already marked out areas in the brain, so we target a specific point and then the Gamma Knife lesions that area,  with the aim of improving the tremor on a given side.

“It’s effective in a significant proportion of people that can no longer eat and dress themselves.  Post treatment they’re able to now use utensils and do up buttons, that is certainly is a life-changer for those people.”

The PA has a dedicated movement disorders clinic which includes a neurologists, psychologists, neuropsychiatrists, and specialist nurses who ensure patients are suitable to undergo Gamma Knife treatment. All follow-up appointments are handled by the clinic, which sees patients from across the Metro South Health region.

The Gamma Knife Centre of Queensland is also in the process of expanding its service to use the machine to treat chronic pain, a development which offers hope to patients in the Metro South Health region.

“It will be similar to our movement disorders clinic in that it will be set up as a single treatment-based appointment with the patients’ set up in the head frame we use. It'll be set up on a prospective database so we can collect all of the data for publication,” A/Prof Foote said.

“When you're treating some of these unusual conditions it's all about just collecting the data at first. There's a number of units overseas which have treated patients with chronic pain. Initially we will focus on those people with advanced cancer when pain is difficult to manage with medication and other modalities.

“It will be an option for those patients who have advanced malignancy with difficult to manage pain, to give them some quality of life. That’s where we would look to start and then once we build our experience then it may be something that we can consider in patients with pain syndromes of non-malignant causes.”

The PA Foundation has contributed significantly to the PA’s Gamma Knife program, funding an upgrade which allowed the machine to target multiple tumours in certain patients through the use of special mask. A/Prof Foote said the funding has allowed for hundreds more patients to be treated each year.

“It's largely helped in the brain metastasis area and with some of the benign brain conditions,” he said.

“We can treat large tumours because the mask enables multiple treatments as opposed to when you're working with the frame it's a once-off single treatment.

“It's given us flexibility with the brain tumours and also enabled us to have greater throughput (number of patients put through treatment) because we've got a certain set number of frames but now we can add on the masks so we can increase our throughput.”

You can support research and treatment by the PA’s Gamma Knife by making the PA Foundation your place to give here. 

16 March 2023
Category: News
Tags: #braincancer, #chronicpain, #parkinsons, #tremor, GammaKnife,