Recently, Florida Hospital in Orlando, FL, installed a gamma knife. The term knife makes this seem as though it isn’t newsworthy, or even a big deal, but that is far from the truth. Gamma knives are hardly knives at all, and the installation of one at Florida Hospital is a tremendous leap forward for adequate cancer care in the Sunshine State. After years of planning and countless dollars being raised, the newest gamma knife in the United States was installed at Florida Hospital Cancer Institute on June 25, 2013.
A Rigorous Installation
Installing the gamma knife was no easy task, and that is quite the understatement. In fact, the device, when assembled, weighs about 25 tons. It has to be hauled into Orlando Hospital, in pieces, on multiple 18-wheeler semi trucks. Along the hospital’s parking garage, three feet of solid concrete were removed to make way for the new gamma knife. And when the device arrived, it took a crane to lift and assemble its components to form a single, solid, and massive structure. Officials from Florida Hospital noted that the installation process, though complex, went about as smoothly as it could’ve gone.
What Is a Gamma Knife?
The gamma knife was first developed in Stockholm, Sweden, by scientists Lars Leksell, Ladislau Steiner, and Borje Larsson, while working for Elektra AB. It was invented to be a form of radiosurgery to treat brain tumors. Today, risks for gamma knife procedures are generally low, and most complications that individuals face after gamma knife procedures are related to the condition itself, and not the actual procedure performed.
How Do They Work?
The process of how the gamma knife operates is quite involved and has boatloads of complex science behind it. To put it in layman’s terms, the gamma knife functions by focusing a great deal of energy onto a single source to kill cancer cells and shrink brain tumors while leaving all surrounding brain matter virtually unscathed.
More specifically, gamma knives contain multiple sources of cobalt-60 that are arranged in a circular, shielded manner. The patient undergoing the procedure wears a special helmet during the procedure, so as to not damage any brain cells while reducing the size of the brain tumor. The helmet also ensures that the brain tumor is stabilized throughout the process. The cobalt-60 is emitted via gamma radiation into the brain with a target point focused on the precise location of the center of the brain tumor. The remarkable result is an ablating brain tumor over time, with the goal being a completely destro[censored] brain tumor, all without causing any real damage to the brain.
How Common Are Gamma Knifes?
Gamma knives aren’t extremely rare, but they are definitely not found at every hospital in the United States. In fact, the one installed at Florida Hospital was only the 111th to be installed in the U.S. Seven other gamma knifes are located in the Sunshine State in St. Petersburg, Pensacola, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Coral Gables, and South Miami, each of which is a considerable distance from Orlando. Furthermore, Orlando and its surrounding communities make up a large po[censored] tion, so the implementation of such a lofty and expensive piece of medical equipment in the area is certainly justified.
Historically, the first hospitals and medical centers to install gamma knives were teaching hospitals at leading research institutions in the country. Then, gamma knives began to be installed at large-volume hospitals with specialized cancer centers in major U.S. cities. Now, it seems as though gamma knives are making their way into smaller metropolitan areas, which can lead one to believe that they will begin to be more prevalent and more accessible by patients in more rural areas in the future.
Taylor Thomas is an experienced writer who has written for a number of notable publications. As a lifestyle expert, Ms. Thomas is able to offer advice and insight on a multitude of topics, including those pertaining to healthcare news.