Doctors at Siloam Hospitals Karawaci have become the first in the country to adopt a non-invasive procedure for brain tumor surgery using a radioactive method.
Eka J. Wahjoepramono, the hospital’s chief surgeon, said on Thursday that the Gamma Knife Perfexion radiosurgery was one of the most sophisticated procedures used in Southeast Asia.
“Conventional brain tumor surgery can take 30 hours, has a high cost and comes with high post-surgery risks as well,” the surgeon said.
He said thousands of Indonesians suffered from brain tumors every year, and the prescribed treatment to date involved open surgery.
This procedure, he said, carried the risk that some nerves could be accidentally affected, which would cause complications in the patients.
By contrast, the Gamma Knife procedure is designed to single out the tumors to be excised with a high degree of precision and accuracy so that no healthy part of the brain is affected.
Susworo, a radiologist at the hospital, said gamma rays were proven to trigger a reaction in the human body to kill or modify the DNA of targeted cells.
“Tumors have no regular form. Sometimes they are round like meatballs, and other times they are elongated like sausages,” he said.
“The rays of this Gamma Knife can trace the form of the tumor.”
He added that under the conventional procedure, delineating the tumor would take a much longer time.
The new method also removes the need for open surgery on the head of the patient, and therefore further minimizes the risks of complications, Eka said.
The recovery time is also significantly reduced. Under the old method, patients would have to spend an undetermined amount of time recovering in the intensive care unit, for which they could pay up to Rp 10 million ($1,100) a night, Eka said.
With the Gamma Knife procedure, the recovery time can be as short as one day.
Kristanto Dwiraharjo, a patient suffering from a meningioma tumor, was among the first at the hospital to undergo the Gamma Knife procedure.
He was first diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2004 and underwent surgery in 2005. However, the tumor grew back and he opted to try the Gamma Knife.
“The difference with the open surgery is extraordinary,” the 52-year-old said.
“Previously, after surgery I suffered from excruciating pain.”
Although the procedure cost $12,000, Kristanto said he did not mind paying because it was still cheaper than open surgery, for which he would have had to pay for a lengthy stay in the ICU and run the risk of complications.
Eka said that Siloam only began using the Gamma Knife procedure on Monday and had performed surgeries on four patients so far.
He said that ideally, Indonesian needed at least 60 Gamma Knife machines to be able to handle the high number of brain tumor cases. At Siloam alone, doctors diagnose around 1,500 such cases each year, out of the national figure of around 8,000.
Eka also said that Indonesia needed more neurosurgeons. There are currently 206 registered neurosurgeons, but the ideal figure given the number of cases should be 2,000, he said.
Siloam Hospitals is affiliated with the Lippo Group, which owns the Jakarta Globe.