UW News

April 20, 2000

Harborview opens Gamma Knife Center for new-generation treatment of neurological problems

[Media Advisory: The new University of Washington Gamma Knife Center at Harborview will be open for a media tour on Tuesday, April 25, 4 – 6 p.m. For information, call (206) 731-6397.]

Patients with brain tumors, cancers, Parkinson?s disease, epilepsy and other neurological abnormalities can now be helped at Harborview Medical Center by the Gamma Knife C, a non-invasive alternative to traditional surgical methods. The Gamma Knife delivers a single, high dose of radiation to obliterate diseased tissue, while sparing healthy tissue and other neural structures to a significant extent.

The Gamma Knife Center at Harborview is a component of the University of Washington (UW) Physicians Neurologic Institute based at Harborview and UW Medical Center.

Harborview is only the second site in the United States (and the only site in the western United States) to have the Gamma Knife C. The new technology includes an automatic positioning system, saving time and eliminating the risk of human error in repositioning coordinates. The patient is also more comfortable during the procedure, which requires no hospitalization afterward.

The procedure begins with a coordinate frame affixed to the patient?s head after the patient receives a local anesthetic. Physicians are able to localize the target, and the patient?s head is positioned within a collimator helmet. Physicians use computer software to create a three-dimensional model to match the shape of the target.

The radiation dose is determined by the lesion?s pathology, location, size and prior therapy. The targeted area receives 201 beams of cobalt-60, enough radiation to cause damage to the lesion while sparing adjacent tissue. The head frame is removed after the procedure, and the patient is evaluated for discharge. Patients are able to resume their normal activities the next day.

“We?re proud to announce the opening of the Gamma Knife Center at Harborview,” says Dr. H. Richard Winn, professor and chairman of the University of Washington (UW) Department of Neurological Surgery. “Now patients with cerebral lesions, arteriovenous malformations, functional brain disorders, and some movement disorders have a new option–a new hope–for treatment.”

UW physicians have been performing radiosurgery since 1984 and have treated several hundred patients with a variety of diseases. In addition to the Gamma Knife C, other forms of radiosurgery are available: the LINAC Scalpel and the Neutron Cyclotron. Each device has its special applications, and patients are treated by the appropriate techniques. The UW Physicians Neurologic Institute radiosurgery effort is unique because of the comprehensive access to these multiple techniques and technologies.

University of Washington (UW) Physicians Neurologic Institute

UW Physicians Neurologic Institute, based at Harborview Medical Center and UW Medical Center, provides internationally renowned care for patients with diseases of the central nervous system. Selected services are also provided at other health-care facilities affiliated with the University of Washington, as well as at Puget Sound Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and Children?s Hospital and Regional Medical Center.

Comprehensive, up-to-date treatment for patients with problems of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system:

* brain and spinal cord tumors (including pituitary tumors and acoustic neuromas/vestibular schwannomas)
* stroke
* head and spinal cord injuries
* epilepsy
* movement disorders
* degenerative diseases (including Alzheimer?s)
* diseases affecting the vertebral column (including herniated discs)

Diagnosis and treatment involving multiple specialties:

* neurology
* neurological surgery
* psychiatry and rehabilitation
* other specialty services provided by UW School of Medicine faculty


* Gamma Knife
* LINAC Scalpel
* Neutron Cyclotron