Gamma Knife Center celebrates 20 years

Palmetto Health is celebrating 20 years as the Gamma Knife radiosurgery center of the Midlands, offering patients an alternative to surgery and whole brain radiation.

“Gamma Knife is not actually a knife, although it’s just as precise,” said Erwin Mangubat, M.D., neurosurgeon at Palmetto Health-USC Neurosurgery. “It is a concentration of radiation beams that can be sharply focused on a specific target to destroy abnormal cells without harming surrounding healthy tissue.”

Since its opening in 1998, the care team at the Palmetto Health Gamma Knife Center has treated thousands of patients with this non-invasive procedure that selectively destroys tumors and blood vessel abnormalities deep within the brain.

Conditions treated by Gamma Knife include:

Benign brain tumors (acoustic neuromas, meningiomas, pituitary tumors)

Malignant tumors (metastatic brain tumors, astrocytomas, other gliomas)

Arteriovenous malformations (AVM)

Trigeminal neuralgia

Columbia native Elizabeth White is one of many patients who has benefitted from the technology.

“I started feeling a slight pain at the top of my head and my balance was off,” White said. “If I was walking and I had to step up on a curb, I couldn’t step up and I didn’t know what was going on.”

After a series of scans, it was discovered White had a tumor pressing on her cerebellum, plus a number of hot spots on her lung, thyroid and in her brain.

“In about a four month period I had the brain tumor taken out around my cerebellum, most of my thyroid removed, and I had a lung biopsy,” said White. “They called me ‘The Enigma’ because it took the doctors about two months to figure out where all the spots were coming from.”

Following her surgeries, White started ongoing treatments at Palmetto Health Gamma Knife Center where Mangubat has been catching remaining metastatic lesions in her brain.

“She was very adamant about not getting whole brain radiation, because there is a chance her cognitive ability would get worse,” said Mangubat. “So we opted to treat multiple small metasticies with Gamma Knife over time. She’s gotten really, really good results. She has stayed really sharp and continues to do very well. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where the cancer will be eradicated.”

White added, “Everything that I’ve had has been relatively small and treatable. The doctors are catching these lesions early, so nothing major occurs, and I’m just grateful that they do have the treatment of Gamma Knife to keep everything at bay. My last two MRIs have shown clear. I’m very grateful for that.”

Palmetto Health’s Leskell Gamma Knife Perfexion is the world’s most precise radiosurgery system. The center’s team of radiation oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation physicists and nurses specializes in this procedure, giving each patient an individually designed treatment plan. Complicated patient cases are presented at Palmetto Health’s Neuro-Oncology Board, where medical professionals can weigh in on the treatment feasibility and projected outcome for each patient.

Advantages of radiosurgery at Palmetto Health include:

No anesthesia needed in most cases.

No shaving of the head is necessary.

No incision or opening of the skull is involved.

Treatment is provided as an outpatient procedure.

None of the side effects of whole brain radiation.

For more information, visit PlamettoHealth.org/GammaKnife or contact Palmetto Health Gamma Knife Center at 803-434-3497.

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