Trigeminal Neuralgia Sufferer and Gamma Knife Patient
"It was painless, odorless and quick. I was home just a few hours later. I would recommend the Gamma Knife to anyone!"
Gamma Knife Treatment Eliminiates Excruciating Facial Pain
For 20 years, Midlander Nancy Miller suffered excruciating and unpredictable “jabs” of pain in her face. She compares it to being struck by lightning…suddenly unable to talk or even think.
Miller’s condition is called trigeminal neuralgia, a disorder of the fifth cranial nerve. “I would rather deliver three babies than experience that pain,” she describes. “Childbirth was a breeze in comparison.”
For a number of years, Miller was able to minimize the painful episodes with medication she took three times a day. Injections helped temporarily. But over time she wound up having to take more and more medication – which gave her an uncomfortable feeling of having to focus too hard just to place one foot in front of the other.
“Finally, I told my doctor that I just couldn’t deal with it anymore,” she remembers.
Up until that point, Miller’s remaining options would have been limited. Open brain surgery has its risks, including bleeding, infection and damage to the nerves that control the face. A stay in intensive care is almost assured. Recovery can take six to eight weeks. Miller’s own aunt had the surgery years before and suffered permanent damage to her face and persistent drooling.
But Miller’s doctor, MidMichigan neurosurgeon Brian Copeland, M.D., offered her a new option – Gamma Knife® surgery. This amazing technology is considered the world’s most advanced approach to brain surgery. MidMichigan’s Gamma Knife is only one of two in Michigan…one of only 80 in the nation.
Miller was thrilled at the prospect of being pain-free without open surgery. She was equally intrigued about having the opportunity to experience a precise, safe, advanced treatment like Gamma Knife surgery right in “little old Midland.”
How the Gamma Knife Works
MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland’s Gamma Knife isn’t a “knife” at all. Instead, the “blades” of the Gamma Knife are 201 individual beams of gamma radiation programmed to converge at a specific target within the brain – in Miller’s case, the trigeminal nerve – without harming surrounding tissue.
Like all Gamma Knife patients, Miller was fitted with a special head frame to ensure that the radiation beams were directed with precision to their target. MRI images helped MidMichigan specialists develop her treatment plan, and a specially designed computer calculated exactly how the radiation beams would be delivered.
“I was in the machine for 32 minutes,” Miller remembers. “I had no sense of claustrophobia. It was painless, odorless and quick. I was home just a few hours later. I think I walked the mall the next day.”
Miller is now pain free. She can’t say enough about the Gamma Knife team – her “liberators” -- including Dr. Copeland and nurse coordinator Dennis Ouillette, R.N. While she has experienced two small “twinges” in her face since her treatment, she is unconcerned and considers the procedure a tremendous success.
Any regrets? “None,” Miller exclaims. “I would recommend the Gamma Knife to anyone!”
In addition to trigeminal neuralgia, MidMichigan’s experts use the Gamma Knife to effectively treat acoustic neuromas (benign brain tumors affecting hearing), benign and cancerous brain tumors, and other brain abnormalities. If you think Gamma Knife may help you or a loved one, let us review your case. Contact our Gamma Knife Coordinator for more information, or to arrange for a no-obligation review of your records and films by one of our neurosurgeons.
Gamma Knife® is a registered trademark of Elekta Group.