Jefferson University Hospitals

Vickie & Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of stereotactic radiosurgery or radiotherapy?

Whether used alone or as a complement to traditional surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy offer numerous benefits.

For starters, these treatments can be performed safely and effectively on patients who wouldn't be able to withstand traditional forms of brain or spinal surgery. Stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy can also treat tumors in dangerous locations, such as the optic nerve, brain stem or spinal cord. Because they're performed on an outpatient basis, these procedures offer shorter treatment time and a dramatically lower recovery period. Finally, stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy eliminate the surgical risks of infection, hemorrhage and spinal fluid leakage.

Are stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy painful?

All methods of stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy are virtually painless and are performed on an outpatient basis.

Single, high-dose radiation via the Gamma Knife requires that patient wear a special stereotactic head frame. This lightweight frame is attached to the skull using four small screws. To relieve any pain associated with securing the head frame, the area is numbed beforehand and a sedative is administered.

Patients who receive multiple doses of radiation often find that the biggest challenge is overcoming their initial anxiety. Because they're so tense during initial treatments, they sometimes report sore necks and backs. However, once they become familiar with the daily routine of their treatment - and realize that it's truly painless - they're able to relax.

Is stereotactic radiosurgery or radiotherapy suitable for all brain and spinal tumors?

Stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy are not optimal treatments for all patients. With that in mind, patients should seek an institution that offers all the alternative treatments currently available for their particular disease. And, ideally, those treatments should all be practiced by the same medical team. This eliminates treatment bias based on a narrower, "single-tool" perspective.

In addition to assessing the versatility and objectivity of a program, patients should also consider the volume of cases handled by the medical team. When physicians have a greater depth and breadth of experience, they can confidently recommend, in some cases, no treatment when they feel observation is the most appropriate management course.

What are the side effects of stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy?

For the vast majority of patients, there are virtually no side effects to stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy. However, as with any medical treatment, there are some possible side effects, including hearing loss and, to a lesser extent, cranial neuropathy and radiation necrosis. Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience's rates for these side effects are among the best in the industry.

Does hair fall out as a result of this treatment?

For the vast majority of patients, their hair does not fall out. However, some patients may experience patchy hair loss.

What are the restrictions while undergoing stereotactic radiosurgery or radiotherapy?

You will find that there are very few limitations on your day-to-day life while undergoing any of Jefferson's stereotactic radiosurgery or radiotherapy treatments. You can carry on your normal activities, including working and spending time with your family. You can even be around your children and grandchildren while undergoing treatment.

For multiple treatments, how long does each session last?

Although the actual treatment time may be as little as 20 to 30 minutes, you should allow 60 minutes each day for your appointment.