It was a headache William Muirhead could not escape. For years it would plague him from the early morning hours into the darkness of the night. He would find himself blaming the headache on everything from stress to his hectic schedule, until the day he and a team of doctors finally discovered what was causing the unrelenting pain.
It was an undetected brain tumor.
Once the diagnosis was made, the skilled surgeons at Methodist Hospitals removed the largest part of Muirhead’s brain tumor using conventional brain surgery. Yet, a small piece remained. Its very location tested the boundaries of science and the skills of his surgeons, but was ultimately removed via the use of a dynamic piece of technology known as the Gamma Knife.
“The entire experience was fantastic,” explained Muirhead of the surgery he had well over eight years ago. “The surgeon explained the whole process and the procedure went well. I was in and out the same day, with no recovery period and no side effects. It’s just amazing.”
Since then, Muirhead has gone on to lead his life, putting the saga of his brain tumor behind him. And for countless patients of Methodist Hospitals, the Gamma Knife has also had a direct impact on their future. Located in the Center for Advanced Clinical Studies at the Southlake campus in Merrillville, the Gamma Knife team is comprised of a neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist, radiation physicist and specially trained Gamma Knife nurse and support staff dedicated to achieving the most positive of outcomes.
Of course, the Gamma Knife is not a ‘knife’ at all.
According to Dr. Hytham Rifai, chief of neurosurgery at Methodist Hospitals, “The main neurosurgical application of the Gamma Knife is to treat all variety of brain tumors. It also delivers remarkable results treating vascular malformations of the brain and patients with trigeminal neuralgia. We have story after story of great success using this technology.”
“Patients dealing with trigeminal neuralgia live with severe facial pain,” said Laurel Valentino, neuroscience clinical director at Methodist Hospitals. “Via the use of the Gamma Knife, pain can decrease greatly. It also saves the patient from multiple injections.”
Using 201 beams of radiation, the Gamma Knife is extremely accurate in locating and excising lesions in the brain, without the patient losing one drop of blood. Nicknamed “bloodless surgery,” even the deepest lesion in the brain can be accessed without affecting the rest of the brain and surrounding tissue.
First to bring the Gamma Knife to Northwest Indiana back in 2003, the staff at Methodist Hospitals still considers the technology as the gold standard. But perhaps one of the most beneficial and important aspects of the Gamma Knife technology is the way it can dramatically decrease a patient’s recovery time.
“Patients come in for the day for the procedure and then can recover in their own home,” Valentino explained. “With a traditional open surgery, a patient could expect to spend as much as a week in the hospital in recovery time. With the Gamma Knife, the patient can go home and not have to worry about any dressing or sutures. They can simply focus on recovering at their own pace.”