Cyberknife for spine patients

Cyberknife for spine patients

By Rod Oskouian, MD
Neurosurgeon

Cyberknife is a type of radiosurgery used to deliver radiation to a specific part of the body.  This high-energy x-ray system utilizes a robotic arm to deliver focused beam radiation.  While the focused radiation can destroy tumor cells and halt tumor growth, the surrounding tissues have minimal exposure to the radiation, thus sparing them from damage.

When is it used?

CyberKnife is useful for both cancerous and noncancerous tumors.  While it has been used to treat tumors of the head, neck, breast, lung, pancreas, kidney, liver, and prostate, it can be extremely effective for the treatment of  spinal tumors.  

How does CyberKnife work?

Patients who undergo CyberKnife have a specialized treatment plan created for them by their neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist, and a medical physicist.  These personalized plans take into account the specific location of the tumor in the body, including the tumor type, shape, size, surrounding tissues and organs (to minimize radiation exposure) and the exact quantity of radiation the tumor cells are receiving,

Why not just have surgery?

Any surgery comes with risk as they are invasive procedures that disrupt blood vessels and body tissues and often organs.  Spine surgery in particular, due to its close proximity to the spinal cord and nerves, carries high risks.  While there are frequently cases where surgery is the only option, when CyberKnife is appropriate, it is a non-invasive alternative.  There is no surgical incision and It does not carry the risk of infection.

Will it hurt?

Cyberknife is a non-invasive, pain-free treatment series, which allows patients to go home after their treatment sessions are completed, which typically include five separate sessions.  During each session, patients lie on the treatment table for 30-90 minute sessions listening to music of their choice.  The computerized machine automatically adjusts to any movement, including as small of movements as a patient taking a breath. 

To watch a video about the CyberKnife treatment, please click here.

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