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Benjamin H. Kann, James B. Yu, John M. Stahl, James E. Bond, Christopher Loiselle, Veronica L. Chiang, Ranjit S. Bindra, Jason L. Gerrard, and David J. Carlson


Functional Gamma Knife radiosurgery (GKRS) procedures have been increasingly used for treating patients with tremor, trigeminal neuralgia (TN), and refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although its rates of toxicity are low, GKRS has been associated with some, if low, risks for serious sequelae, including hemiparesis and even death. Anecdotal reports have suggested that even with a standardized prescription dose, rates of functional GKRS toxicity increase after replacement of an old cobalt-60 source with a new source. Dose rate changes over the course of the useful lifespan of cobalt-60 are not routinely considered in the study of patients treated with functional GKRS, but these changes may be associated with significant variation in the biologically effective dose (BED) delivered to neural tissue.


The authors constructed a linear-quadratic model of BED in functional GKRS with a dose-protraction factor to correct for intrafraction DNA-damage repair and used standard single-fraction doses for trigeminal nerve ablation for TN (85 Gy), thalamotomy for tremor (130 Gy), and capsulotomy for obsessive-compulsive disorder (180 Gy). Dose rate and treatment time for functional GKRS involving 4-mm collimators were derived from calibrations in the authors' department and from the cobalt-60 decay rate. Biologically plausible values for the ratio for radiosensitivity to fraction size (α/β) and double-strand break (DSB) DNA repair halftimes (τ) were estimated from published experimental data. The biphasic characteristics of DSB repair in normal tissue were accounted for in deriving an effective τ1 halftime (fast repair) and τ2 halftime (slow repair). A sensitivity analysis was performed with a range of plausible parameter values.


After replacement of the cobalt-60 source, the functional GKRS dose rate rose from 1.48 to 2.99 Gy/min, treatment time fell, and estimated BED increased. Assuming the most biologically plausible parameters, source replacement resulted in an immediate relative BED increase of 11.7% for GKRS-based TN management with 85 Gy, 15.6% for thalamotomy with 130 Gy, and 18.6% for capsulotomy with 180 Gy. Over the course of the 63-month lifespan of the cobalt-60 source, BED decreased annually by 2.2% for TN management, 3.0% for thalamotomy, and 3.5% for capsulotomy.


Use of a new cobalt-60 source after replacement of an old source substantially increases the predicted BED for functional GKRS treatments for the same physical dose prescription. Source age, dose rate, and treatment time should be considered in the study of outcomes after high-dose functional GKRS treatments. Animal and clinical studies are needed to determine how this potential change in BED contributes to GKRS toxicity and whether technical adjustments should be made to reduce dose rates or prescription doses with newer cobalt-60 sources.

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Abhijeet Gummadavelli, Adam J. Kundishora, Jon T. Willie, John P. Andrews, Jason L. Gerrard, Dennis D. Spencer, and Hal Blumenfeld

When drug-resistant epilepsy is poorly localized or surgical resection is contraindicated, current neurostimulation strategies such as deep brain stimulation and vagal nerve stimulation can palliate the frequency or severity of seizures. However, despite medical and neuromodulatory therapy, a significant proportion of patients continue to experience disabling seizures that impair awareness, causing disability and risking injury or sudden unexplained death. We propose a novel strategy in which neuromodulation is used not only to reduce seizures but also to ameliorate impaired consciousness when the patient is in the ictal and postictal states. Improving or preventing alterations in level of consciousness may have an effect on morbidity (e.g., accidents, drownings, falls), risk for death, and quality of life. Recent studies may have elucidated underlying networks and mechanisms of impaired consciousness and yield potential novel targets for neuromodulation. The feasibility, benefits, and pitfalls of potential deep brain stimulation targets are illustrated in human and animal studies involving minimally conscious/vegetative states, movement disorders, depth of anesthesia, sleep-wake regulation, and epilepsy. We review evidence that viable therapeutic targets for impaired consciousness associated with seizures may be provided by key nodes of the consciousness system in the brainstem reticular activating system, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, thalamus, and basal forebrain.