Charu Madia (46) underwent two major surgeries for brain tumours at PD Hinduja Hospital in Mahim last week.
But the Chowpatty resident is not recovering in a drab hospital room. She was back home within 24 hours after each surgery, sitting in her living room with her children, with no visible sign of the operation. "Except for a little weakness, I'm feeling perfectly fine," she said.
Madia didn't undergo a conventional surgery in which the skull is cut open to correct anomalies in the brain. Her surgeries were performed using a gamma knife, which isn't actually a knife at all, but powerful gamma rays that pierce into the deepest parts of the brain and destroy the tumour without any cut.
"I had already undergone surgery for breast cancer in 2007. Last month, doctors found that the cancer had spread to the brain. I am glad this time I did not have to go under the knife, especially since it involved the brain," said Madia.
Madia is among roughly 1,400 people who have undergone Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for brain tumours and various other neurological conditions at Hinduja Hospital since it started offering the procedure in 1997. Hinduja is the only hospital in Mumbai that conducts Gamma surgery.
Considering Australia recorded its first Gamma surgery last week, India is way ahead in this field.
Apart from the fact that gamma knife surgery is non-invasive, a growing number of patients are opting for it because it does not involve any "downtime" — one can get back to work the next day, said doctors.
Gamma knife is used to treat brain tumours, brain metastases (cancer that has spread to brain from another body part), tumours of the pituitary gland and abnormal blood vessel formations located deep in the brain.
"The procedure is ideally suited for these conditions as one can deliver a high dose of radiation to a target which is as small as 4 mm without causing damage surround brain tissue," said Dr B.K. Mishra, the neurosurgeon who conducts the surgery at Hinduja.
He added that the surgery is successful in controlling tumours and vessel malformations in 80 to 90 percent of cases.
Doctors are also using Gamma Knife to treat selected cases of epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But studies are still being conducted to gauge the efficacy of the surgery in treating these conditions.
In the past two years, Mumbai-based neurosurgeon Dr Sanjay Mongia has operated on 14 patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and six with epilepsy at centres in Delhi and Bangalore.
"We have got good results so far. Patients with OCD noticed 60 per cent reduction in obsessive thoughts," he said, adding that they destroy a tiny portion of the brain (capsulotomy) with the Gamma Knife.
Dr Mongia's patient Ramesh Ranaut (name changed), who underwent gamma surgery for OCD last October, said it had brought him "some mental peace" and reduced dependence on medicines.