11 February 2023

Patients in Sheffield become first in world to be treated on latest Gamma Knife machine

Patients at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have become the first in the world to receive treatment on the latest version of the Gamma Knife, a machine used to treat brain tumours and other brain conditions.

The Royal Hallamshire Hospital is the first in the world to install the Elekta Esprit, and the first patients were treated on February 7th 2023. The hospital is home to the National Centre for Stereotactic Radiosurgery which was the first and is the largest centre for gamma knife stereotactic radiosurgery in the UK.

Gamma Knife technology uses a focused array of intersecting beams of carefully measured gamma radiation to target lesions in the brain with sub-millimetre precision, meaning that there is less risk of damage to surrounding healthy tissue and thus fewer side effects for patients. Unlike open surgery, patients are usually treated as a day case, and the treatment is less invasive.

The latest version of the technology offers the flexibility of traditional frame-based treatments as well as mask-based treatments. Patients undergoing Gamma Knife treatment need to wear a special frame or mask to enable the tumour to be targeted precisely. The new machine will enable more patients to be treated with the latest technology, which offers the highest levels of precision, improved patient comfort and enables more patients to be treated.

One of the patients to be treated on the first day of the new machine’s operation was Derry Crighton, 41, of Forfar, Scotland.

Derry had suffered two brain haemorrhages (bleeds on the brain) due to an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is a tangled mass of blood vessels.

It was his second round of gamma knife radiosurgery, his initial treatment having been the final treatment to take place on the previous machine. The treatment aims to eradicate the AVM.

Derry, who is a father of three and works as a tree surgeon, said: “I could not have had regular brain surgery due to the location of AVM. It would have been too complex and at a minimum would have left me blind in one eye.

“It is fantastic to be able to have the gamma knife treatment. It is amazing because it is invisible and painless and you are awake through the whole thing.”

He said as a patient the new machine was “far more comfortable.”

“It was exciting to be one of the first but of course there is always a little bit of apprehension as well. But the team have been so helpful and friendly and explained everything really well and I have felt informed at every stage.”

Derry will be able to return to work within days of his surgery.

Julian Cahill, Consultant Neurosurgeon and Clinical Lead for the National Centre for Stereotactic Radiosurgery said: “Sheffield Teaching Hospitals is a world leader in pioneering Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, and we are proud to be leading the way with the latest Gamma Knife technology which we are confident will enable a greater range of patients to receive treatment here in Sheffield.”

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