Non-Invasive Gamma Knife Procedure Zeroes in on the Pain

Ronald JohnsonToday you’ll find Ronald Johnson, 76-year-old owner of Johnson Candy Co., selling handmade confections in his Tacoma store. But a few years ago, a nagging health problem began interfering with his normal routine. Ronald was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, a nerve disorder that causes episodes of intense pain in the facial area.

“It could be triggered by the slightest touch—by eating, brushing my teeth or shaving,” he says. “It wasn’t constant, but when it came on, it felt like an electric shock or a bolt of lightning.”

Ronald and his physician managed the pain with medication for five years, but eventually the drug lost its effectiveness, causing other problems. They tried another medication with some success, but things worsened. “When my doctor told me about Gamma Knife, I had to try it,” Ronald says.

Surgery without a scalpel
Strictly speaking, Gamma Knife isn’t a knife at all. Used to treat abnormalities of the brain’s artery and vein systems, brain tumors and functional disorders like Parkinson’s disease, the procedure doesn’t require head incisions. Instead, the physician precisely focuses 201 intersecting beams of high-intensity radiation directly on the problem area, sparing surrounding normal brain tissue.

Ronald’s procedure was performed at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, the only Gamma Knife facility between Seattle and Portland. “I left that Gamma room without pain and now I’ve forgotten what I went through before,” Ronald says. “It’s absolutely wonderful. And I want others to know that there is relief.”

Learn more about Gamma Knife at CHI Franciscan Health.