Barbara Higdon

Gamma Knife Gives Seizure Patient Piece of Mind

gamma knife

Our Gamma Knife system offers the latest and most automated treatments for patients.

It was a December day a year ago when Barbara Higdon had a seizure while running errands. The breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones, liver and lungs had invaded even more of her body. Unbeknownst to her, the cancer had spread to her brain, causing the seizure.

Following a course of radiation, Ms. Higdon discussed with her oncologist if there was another possible treatment option to attack the tumors in her brain. Since she had multiple tumors, surgery was not an option. Together they wondered if gamma knife treatment at the University of Maryland Medical Center might be the way to go.

Patients with brain tumors who once relied on surgery, multiple applications of radiation therapy or a combination, often have another option called gamma knife. The gamma knife is a "bloodless" procedure in which a "bladeless" knife emits 201 finely focused beams of radiation directly into the brain at the exact location of the disorder. It is used to treat malignant tumors like Ms. Higdon's. It is also used for many benign tumors, arteriovenous malformations, and functional disorders, according to Lawrence Chin, M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and medical director, Gamma Knife Center and Brain Tumor Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

"I had no fear because I knew there was no-cutting involved," says Ms. Higdon when recalling her initial reaction about having gamma knife treatment.

The University of Maryland Medical Center established its Gamma Knife Center over a decade ago, making it the first gamma knife in the region. "To date, more than 2,000 patients have been treated with gamma knife at the University of Maryland. Because there is little in the way of pain, anesthesia, hospitalization, or recovery time, it appears to be far more cost effective and more advantageous for the patient than conventional surgery," explains William F. Regine, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The gamma knife team at the University of Maryland Medical Center is among the most experienced in the nation. Specialists from Neurosurgery, Radiation Oncology, and NeuroRadiology work together to determine whether a patient is a candidate for gamma knife. This specialized procedure requires experience and particular attention to detail.

"The team explained everything to me. They are so organized and they made me feel so relaxed, comfortable and reassured," explains Ms. Higdon.

On the day of the treatment, Ms. Higdon says she felt "no pain." She dozed in and out as the music of new age singer Enya played in the procedure room. A day later she returned to her home in Baltimore County.

The results were positive. The tumors in Ms. Higdon's brain had shrunk to half their size. "The gamma knife gave me hope when I thought there were no other treatment options. It also gave me a sense of closure in that I am no longer anticipating another seizure," says Ms. Higdon.

To schedule a consultation with the University of Maryland Gamma Knife Center team, please call the office of the Medical Director, at 410-328-0700; or the Co-Director, William F. Regine, M.D., at 410-328-6236.

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