Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a type of radiation therapy. Despite its name, SRS is not a traditional surgical procedure. Instead, this incisionless treatment uses high doses of precisely targeted radiation to treat brain tumors and brain anomalies like arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) without damaging healthy tissues. Because it involves higher radiation doses than traditional radiation, SRS often requires fewer treatments to be effective.
SRS, like traditional radiation, damages the tumor cells’ DNA so it is unable to reproduce. The goal is to prevent additional tumor growth, and many tumors will shrink as a result of SRS. Metastatic tumors can begin shrinking within months, and benign tumors can take 18 months to two years to shrink. AVMs may close off within a few years.
One of the main benefits of SRS is its precision. SRS is accurate to within two millimeters, and because of its efficacy, it is also being used to treat tumors in other parts of their body. When SRS is used outside of the brain, it’s known as stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT).
Before Stereotactic Radiosurgery
Before your procedure, your provider performs an in-depth treatment planning process using three-dimensional imaging tests, such as CT, MRI or PET/CT. This will determine the tumor’s precise coordinates, along with its specific size and shape. A personalized plan is developed for optimal patient position, and a radiation beam design pattern is also created to ensure the radiation enters the patient’s body from different angles and at different intensities to precisely target the affected area.
Stereotactic radiosurgery is an outpatient procedure and preparations will most likely be minimal. Your providers may ask you not to eat or drink anything the night before your treatment, and you should tell your providers about any medications you are taking.
During Stereotactic Radiosurgery
Receiving a stereotactic radiosurgery treatment is similar to receiving an X-ray. You will not feel the high doses of radiation, but you may see flashes of light. The procedure is painless and typically lasts between 30 minutes and an hour.
After Stereotactic Radiosurgery
You should be able to leave the facility about an hour after your procedure, and you may need someone to drive you home. You should be able to return to your normal activities by the next day.
You’ll check in with your oncologist or neurologist and continue with additional treatment.