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Frequently Asked Questions

The Team

How does the CyberKnife work?

The CyberKnife, paired with other hospital imaging technology, allows our specialists to customize a treatment plan for each patient. Our surgeons and radiation oncologists specify what tissue needs to be treated and which areas must be spared. The physicists then use a complex program to determine a treatment plan for each patient based on the unique shape and location of the tumor. The planning process determines the positions of the beams of radiation.

Through the use of technology, the CyberKnife system locates the position of the tumor and uses a robotic arm to deliver highly focused beams of radiation to the tumor. The robotic arm's range of motion allows for radiation to be delivered to tumor sites that are unreachable when using most other stereotactic treatment procedures. Because of its high precision, the CyberKnife at Saint Louis University Hospital can, without surgical incisions, go inside the body to achieve a surgical-like treatment.

What conditions are treated with the CyberKnife at Saint Louis University Hospital?

Specialists at Saint Louis University Hospital are using this new tool to treat tumors nearly anywhere in the body, including malignant and benign tumors of the brain, spine, lungs, pancreas, prostate and liver. In addition to treating newly diagnosed tumors, it can be used to treat sites that have had prior radiotherapy, an option that is often impossible with standard radiation techniques.

What are the steps for treatment?

Radiosurgery using the CyberKnife generally requires one to five treatments. Before you begin treatment, you will visit us to prepare a customized facemask or other stabilizing device. Preparation is noninvasive.

Also on the first visit, we will produce a set of CT and MRI images of the tumor and surrounding tissues. These images will be used to plan your treatment. Patients being treated for tumors or lesions outside the head or spine may need to undergo placement of fiducials or special markers near the tumor prior to treatment. Placement of the fiducials is done as a minor outpatient procedure using local anesthetic.

On the day of the actual treatment, the patient lies on a table and wears the custom-fit facemask or stabilizer while the robotic arm delivers the radiation. All treatments are on an outpatient basis and typically last between one and two hours.

Is the CyberKnife clinically proven?

The CyberKnife is currently available in over 125 centers in North America. Developed and manufactured by Accuray Inc., the CyberKnife technology was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August 2001.

Who will be involved in my treatment?

A specially trained team of highly qualified medical experts operates the CyberKnife. Team members include a surgeon, radiation oncologist, physicist, radiation therapy technologists, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

How do I schedule a CyberKnife treatment?

Our physicians need to carefully review each potential patient's medical history and clinical condition to determine whether or not the CyberKnife is an appropriate treatment option. This will be determined at a consultation with the radiation oncologist and surgeon.

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