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Published on August 13, 2019

Gamma knife machine

Gamma Knife a Powerful Tool Against Brain Tumor

Gamma Knife technology is like few other machines – its pinpoint accuracy allows physicians to radiate tumors without damaging nearby tissue. That’s a critical difference when a tumor – even one that isn’t cancerous – is found in a place in the body that requires care.

“While Gamma Knife is a refined and effective technology, it was a best fit for Darcy because we were working with her lifestyle,” said Kyle Arneson, MD, Avera Medical Group radiation oncologist. “Having a powerful tool like this allowed us to treat her tumor without surgery, without anesthesia and with very little downtime.”

Darcy Deinert, Arneson’s patient, is a busy mom, volleyball coach and wife. She noticed things in her life felt “off” and really felt it was hormonal. It was, but not in a way most of us would recognize. She had a benign cystic tumor that was less than a quarter-inch in diameter, but it was pressing on her pituitary gland and causing problems.

With a hectic schedule of family, friends and coaching the Mount Vernon Titans volleyball team, Deinert wanted good options – ones that would not leave her with the painful headaches and the “off” nature of her life at the time.

“I could wait and endure it. Compared to surgery, sometimes that seemed like an option,” she said. “Not very many people – including me – want to have surgery like that.”

Instead, she was able to have the tumor treated during one session at the Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls. The Gamma Knife itself is not a knife – it’s a large device that in some ways looks like a CT or MRI machine. Patients lie down on a table and professionals use the device to deliver the precision dose of radiation to the tumor – all while not affecting the delicate brain and pituitary tissue nearby.

“Without Gamma Knife, she may have had to face surgery and the potential complications – as well as significant recovery time – that come with that procedure,” said Arneson. “Often a single treatment with the Gamma Knife is all that is needed, and that was the case with Darcy.”

The device allowed Arneson and Deinert’s neurosurgeon, Michael Puumala, MD, Avera Medical Group neurosurgeon, to do “maximum damage” to the tumor without affecting the nearby tissue.

“We are blessed as a health system to have this tool at our disposal. It’s something not found elsewhere in the region,” Arneson said. “In this case, it provided the best possible approach for our patient.”

Deinert returned to her life, avoiding weeks of surgical recovery with a new appreciation of the technology that helped her. “I’d encourage anyone facing the facts I did to talk to their entire care team and consider all the options. I’m glad I did that,” she said. “The day after it was done I was back with my family and friends, and I went to watch the state volleyball tournament and attend meetings there.”

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