Research in the field of neurology and of cancer has contributed to the uptick in the use of Stereotactic Radiosurgery or SRS. Conceived by a team of neurosurgeons and physicists in Sweden about 50 years ago, the use of SRS has become increasingly useful in treating abnormalities of the brain. Breakthroughs in the technology that delivers precisely targeted radiation in fewer high-dose treatments than traditional therapy is providing better outcomes for certain patients. Using non-surgical radiation therapy to treat functional abnormalities and small tumors of the brain is preferred to traditional surgery in some patients, according to Dr. Michelle Mackay, Medical Director of Turville Bay Radiation Oncology Center in Madison, WI. “Turville Bay’s stereotactic radiosurgery program is growing,” Mackay says. “Using advanced technology we’re able to perform delicate brain surgery without a knife, and change a life.”
One of the most important areas in the practice of stereotactic radiosurgery is treating tumors of the brain and neck. Radiosurgery is gaining acceptance in the field of Neurology for a number of reasons. When the target, a tumor that’s benign or malignant, is found in a difficult spot such as deep within the brain, or the patient is to fragile for traditional surgery, SRS might be used. With no anesthetic needed, no hospital stay, no recovery period, and no real downtime, stereotactic radiosurgery provides certain patients with better outcomes. “With our team of specialists, this technology, and an intensive treatment plan, we’ve found that SRS works incredibly well,” says Dr. Mackay.
The process of SRS is uniquely different than traditional surgery. Prior to treatment day, a team of specialists works together on the patient’s treatment plan. The team includes a neurosurgeon a medical physicist and dosimetrist, specially trained radiation therapists, oncology nurses, and a radiation oncologist. The plan is completely individualized to both patient and treatment target. Together they deliver the treatment according to that plan, often in a single visit; as the patient lies on the treatment couch of Turville Bay’s TrueBeam linear accelerator, a robotic arm controlled by a computer moves around him or her. It focuses radiation precisely where it is needed, avoiding the healthy brain tissue that surrounds the tumor. “The work is made possible by a team with years of expertise and this advanced piece of technology,” says Dr. Mackay, referring to Varian’s TrueBeam. “The precision is quite amazing.”