Avera Medical Minute: Gamma Knife Treatment Helps Local Teacher

A Mount Vernon woman got back into the game, coaching volleyball the day after treatment for a cyst near her brain.

Dr. Puumala and Darcy Deinert review her MRI

Darcy Deinert doesn't let much slow her down. She's a teacher and a coach for both volleyball and basketball.

When strange headaches were developing and something felt "off", Darcy went to her doctor with the symptoms.

They found a benign cyst close to her pituitary gland, they watched it grow over a year's time and decided it was time to take action before it affected her optical nerve.

Darcy weighed the options.

"And so I could wait, I could do surgery or I could try Gamma Knife," Deinert said.

Dr. Michael Puumala, a Neurosurgeon at Avera Health, says the treatment delivers precise radiation, almost like a magnifying glass pointing the sun rays into one place.

"That's what actually happens with the radiation it will actually burn a hole right where things are focused, and so for certain things, the Gamma Knife is very good," Dr. Puumala said.

"That's why they call it a gamma knife. It's almost like they're cutting it out."

Another team member, Dr. Kyle Arneson in radiation oncology describes just how small of an area they were treating.

"There was this very small little cystic benign tumor less than a quarter of an inch in size," Dr. Arneson said.

The day of the procedure, Darcy went from nervous to comfortable.

"It was amazing cause it had an awesome picture, just kind of a relaxing tranquil background," Deinert said.

Deinert was able to avoid invasive surgery with a four-month recovery time.

"The next day I was at state volleyball, wearing a hat," Deinert said.

"Gamma Knife is a very eloquent, sophisticated machine, it does pinpoint radiation to the brain. It's all it does and it does it incredibly well," Arneson said.

"The gamma knife itself has been a lot busier than we kind of predicted it would be, just be because it has proven to useful in a lot of different things," Puumala said.

Follow up MRI's are revealing exactly what they had hoped, the growth has stopped.

Puumala says the growth is not getting bigger and it's not pressing on things. That's the goal.

Darcy offers some advice for anyone who might be considering the procedure.

"Ask a lot of questions, don't be afraid to get your team together and do what's right for you," Deinert said.