What to Consider When Removing a Gamma Knife Radiosurgery System
Gamma Knife ® systems are considered state-of-the art technology for the treatment of brain tumors and other stereotactic treatments. However, when it’s time to remove some of the older units, it becomes a notoriously delicate process largely due to the sensitive nature of the cobalt 60 sources that power them. ROS, with the help of its valued partners, recently orchestrated the removal of an Elekta Leksell 4C Gamma Knife radiosurgery system and managed the multilayered process of handling and removing this machine and its sources. It took seven straight days to remove the two-hundred and one cobalt 60 sources contained in the machine.
The project presented logistical challenges involving the use of a crane to lift the machine out of the hospital, but it was the delicate handling of the machine’s cobalt 60 sources that required the greatest effort.
The most important thing when conducting a Gamma Knife removal is to carefully adhere to all regulations in place for the handling, removal, and transport of radioactive materials. These regulations come from the federal (via the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or NRC), state, local, and even specific hospital levels. Licenses are required from the NRC and Department of Transportation to handle and remove the cobalt sources, and a police escort is required during the transportation. Each source, due to its radioactivity, must also be placed into a special cask for removal. Knowing that Gamma Knife removal is an extremely detailed process filled with paperwork and logistical planning that absolutely must be adhered to in order to ensure a completely safe removal, partnering with the right team, who will work with you, is essential.
The bottom line for Gamma Knife removal comes down to three words: safety, compliance, and transparency. Removal teams, hospital staff, and law enforcement all must work together with complete trust in order to safely execute the removal project. For this specific project, we had a hospital physicist, radiation safety officer, project manager, administrator, and security all given formal clearance and actively participating in the removal with our team. In summary, the key success factors are: appropriate due diligence, communicating clearly, full transparency, setting realistic expectations, and of course teamwork and dedication. We are proud of this recent medical equipment removal project and thank all of the parties involved, especially our service partners and our customer.