What to Expect
The treatment consists of five steps.
Often the treatment is undertaken as an outpatient procedure and you will be admitted to the centre early morning on treatment day and discharged later in the day. Some patients wish to stay locally and we can provide details of local accomodation.
Dependent on condition some patients may be asked to stay with us at Thornbury Hospital the night before treatment. This will have been discussed at your outpatient appointment.
In the morning after meeting with the radiographers and consultant, who will explain in detail what to expect during the day and answer any questions you may have you will proceed to the treatment room to be fitted with the stereotactic head frame. The lightweight frame allows the doctor to accurately pinpoint the target to be treated in your brain. It also prevents your head from moving during imaging and treatment procedures.
The frame fitting involves a small degree of discomfort, but most patients tolerate it remarkably well. The application of the head frame requires four small injections to administer local anaesthetic (similar to having a dental treatment) in order to numb the sites where the 4 pins are to be used to secure the frame. The whole procedure takes about 5 – 10 minutes during which you may experience some minor discomfort from the wearing of the head frame but will quickly get used to this.
After the head frame is in place, you will be transferred to our excellent team in the Scanning Centre so that your planning images can be done. This requires a short outside journey between buildings through a public area in a wheelchair and you will be offered blankets etc to ensure this journey is comfortable and safe. Planning is usually based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or occasionally computed tomography (CT) scans. This imaging is required to determine the exact size, shape and position of the target in the brain.
Your scanning session may last for up to 45 minutes, and may involve an injection of contrast dye to enable the best possible scan quality.
Once your scan is complete, you will be taken back our newly refurbished day case rooms where you can have light refreshments and a rest. During this time, the Physicist along with a Radiologist uses a specially designed computer system to calculate a precise and accurate treatment plan based upon your scans.
This treatment plan is unique to you as every patient’s plan is individually designed to address the specific medical condition. Once complete, your Consultant reviews and accepts this plan and prescribes your treatment.
Once your treatment plan is complete and all necessary checks have taken place, the actual treatment can start. The treatment is similar to having a scan, and you will be lying down with your head frame supported to ensure that you are sufficiently still.
During the treatment you will be awake and be able to communicate with the Treatment team through an audio and video connection. If necessary, breaks can be introduced into the treatment process to ensure your comfort whilst you are treated.
When your treatment is complete, the head frame will be removed and you will be returned to your room to rest. Some patients experience a mild headache or some minor soreness at the points where the head frame was attached, but most report no problems.
The majority of our patients return home the same day an hour or two after the treatment has finished, your doctor will tell you whether or not they want you to stay overnight for observation. The points where the frame was fitted should heal completely in 1-2 weeks, however you should be able to return to your normal routines in a day or so.
What happens next?
The effects of your treatment will occur over time. Radiation treatments are designed to stop the growth of tumours or dysfunctional tissue, which means that the effect will be seen over a period of weeks or months. Your doctor will stay in contact with you and your referring Consultant to assess your progress. Follow-up imaging such as MRI or CT may be undertaken 3-12 months after treatment.
Please watch the short video below which describes what patients experience before, during and after treatment.