This year, the Gamma Knife Center is celebrating 20 years of treating patients, and a lot has happened at the Center since Drs. Steven R. Isaacson and Michael B. Sisti started it in 1998. Dr. Isaacson has retired, but Dr. Sisti remains Co-Director of the Center.
For two decades now, the Gamma Knife Center has been a place where adults and children can be treated with a safe, noninvasive approach: Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Gamma Knife radiosurgery works by focusing low-frequency beams of gamma radiation to the target area in the brain while sparing healthy brain tissue from high doses of radiation. Despite the name, Gamma Knife radiosurgery doesn’t use a knife at all. It is, in fact, an alternative to open brain surgery for a range of conditions, including brain tumors, arteriovenous malformations (AVM), trigeminal neuralgia and Parkinson’s disease.
The Gamma Knife team has successfully treated more than 5,000 patients and has been a part of countless amazing patient stories.
Jennifer Hanichak Farrell, a patient of Dr. Jeffrey Bruce, recalls a time before Gamma Knife radiosurgery was an option. (You can read her full story here.) Back in 1994, Jennifer was only 16 years old and had a life-threatening tumor in her brain. Co-Director of the Brain Tumor Center, Dr. Bruce skillfully removed the tumor surgically. Several years later, in 2002, a scan showed a small mass in her brain.
“When I was told that a small amount of my brain tumor had come back,” says Jennifer, “there was no question in my mind that I would return to New York to work with Dr. Bruce. I learned that technology had advanced since my surgery in 1994, and I now could have my tumor treated with Gamma Knife radiation.”
Dr. Bruce successfully treated the mass in Jennifer’s brain with Gamma Knife radiosurgery.
“She has had an excellent outcome,” says Dr. Bruce. “She is a lovely young woman who showed great courage in dealing with a life-threatening illness as a 16-year-old high school student.”
The story of another high school student, senior Tom Mahala, also warms our hearts. (You can read his full story here.) Tom had what he thought was a migraine, so he skipped baseball practice one day. The migraine turned out to be a bleed in his brain. Tom had an arteriovenous malformation, which is a tangle of blood vessels that disrupt normal blood flow. He also had an aneurysm in his brain, a condition in which the wall of a blood vessel is weakened and bulges outward. At the time of diagnosis at a local hospital, the doctors were unsure of the source of the bleeding. It could have been the AVM or the aneurysm.
After being stabilized at a local hospital, Tom was moved to Columbia University Irving Medical Center, where Department Chair Dr. Robert Solomon coordinated his care and established that the aneurysm was what needed to be fixed first. Dr. Sean Lavine performed emergency surgery to repair it.
Before the AVM could be treated, Tom needed to recover fully from surgery. Fortunately, as it turned out, a second invasive surgery wasn’t needed. Tom was successfully treated noninvasively with Gamma Knife to repair the AVM. He has since made a full recovery.
“The headaches are gone entirely, and we thank each and every one of you from the bottom of our hearts. Everybody at the Gamma Knife Center went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and at ease. We still can’t believe the change in me. Thank you all.”
“I’d like to thank you for making my Gamma Knife treatment a pleasant and positive experience. Your professionalism and knowledge, together with your warmth and humor, made me feel comfortable and allayed my fears. You have effectively been able to create a comfortable, caring and cheerful atmosphere for your patients.”
“My parents and children can now kiss me on my face. This may not be a significant achievement to others, but to me it’s an accomplishment I doubted could ever take place.”
The faculty and staff at the Gamma Knife Center have been serving patients since 1998. Before that, the Center for Radiosurgery, as it was called, did not yet have Gamma Knife technology. Since 1998, the Center has undergone several multi-million dollar upgrades to provide the very latest technology to serve our patients and achieve the best possible outcomes.
In 2017, the Center upgraded to a $2 million Leksell Gamma Knife ICON system, which has the benefit of a frameless treatment option.
Also in 2017, the Center treated its 5,000th patient, Delia, for a brain tumor. Delia was cared for by Gamma Knife Center Co-Director Dr. Sisti.
Making the occasion particularly memorable, Dr. Sisti used ICON with the frameless treatment option to treat Delia’s brain tumor. Delia’s treatment took about 40 minutes, and afterward she walked right out. “It was painless,” she recalls.
“Today we can appreciate the significance of this treatment milestone,” Dr. Sisti said about reaching the 5,000th patient. “But with the introduction of the frameless ICON Gamma Knife we look to an even brighter future for our next 5,000 patients.”
It has been an eventful 20 years, and we look forward to many more to come!
Learn more about the Gamma Knife Center on its webpage here.
Learn more about Gamma Knife radiosurgery on our treatment page here.
Learn more about Department Chair Dr. Robert Solomon on his bio page here.
Learn more about Dr. Sean Lavine on his bio page here.
Learn more about Dr. Michael Sisti on his bio page here.
Learn more about Dr. Jeffrey Bruce on his bio page here.
You have added pages to your clipboard. Please log in or create an account to share them or use later.
You are now being taken to Columbia Neurosurgery's site dedicated to the spine.
Use this button to save pages to your clipboard for future use.OK. Got it.