In 2008, Maryse Rousseau was diagnosed with a benign tumour near the auditory nerve. A Gamma Knife procedure was proposed. This device of the latest generation is used to treat brain lesions by using high- precision rays projected directly onto the tumour, without damaging surrounding healthy tissue and especially without opening the skull.
As it is carried out without the use of a general anaesthetic, this procedure reduces the risk of complications that can arise in surgery. Professor Marc Levivier, head of Service of Neurosurgery, suggested that Ms Rousseau wait until the machine was installed in 2010, while continuing to treat her regularly.
Then the day of the operation came and the multidisciplinary team at the Gamma Knife Centre took Ms Rousseau in for surgery: "While I was lying in the machine, I couldn’t feel a thing" she recalls, “I even listened to music, but all the while, gamma rays were killing my tumour…it defies belief”. In fact, the only discomfort Ms Rousseau experienced was when the four-point head-frame, which prevented her from moving during the operation, was fitted to her head.
After only forty-five minutes, the treatment was complete - the Gamma Knife had stopped the tumour in its tracks, ensuring it could no longer develop. "The rays act on a molecular level: the cells stop dividing so the tumour cannot grow”, explains Prof. Levivier. “Once the operation is over, scare tissue will replace the living cells, little by little.” The now harmless growth is left inside the patient’s skull.
In over 50% of cases, the size of the mass shrinks over time. This causes a reduction in symptoms associated with the tumour, already present before Gamma Knife treatment, such as tinnitus or vertigo. While hearing loss may not be fully reversed, it can be stabilised. "The challenge is preserving hearing, maintaining the same level as pre-operatively”, adds Prof. Levivier. This is the case today for Maryse Rousseau, a year after surgery. Despite her tinnitus and some problems with balance, she says, “The simple fact that I have none of the potential side effects of classical invasive surgery, such as facial paralysis, makes me so happy.”
A week after the procedure, Ms Rousseau feels full of life, as though she has received “rays of energy”. For her, missing out on her enjoyment of life is out of the question. “I didn’t want to miss the Paleo festival. I already had my ticket!” Attending such an event would have been unthinkable a few short years ago, but a rapid return to normal life is one of the benefits of Gamma Knife treatment.
After a year of use, Prof. Levivier provides a glowing assessment of the Gamma Knife. "The results we have seen to date correspond exactly with our expectations. While longer-term follow-up of between three and five years will allow us to conduct a more in-depth study, the record as it stands today is very positive." The only working Gamma Knife in Switzerland has already treated almost 120 patients, including several foreign patients.