What to Expect During Transsphenoidal and Gamma Knife Procedures

Paris Dancy avatar

by Paris Dancy |

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Transsphenoidal surgery \ Cushing's Disease News \ A stock photo of a surgeon and other medical personnel in the operating room performing surgery on a patient


In one of the Cushing’s disease support groups I belong to, I recently saw a question about what to expect during transsphenoidal surgery and the Gamma Knife procedure, two procedures used to remove or treat tumors. It just so happens that I have experienced both.

If you are a patient considering either of these procedures, the location and the size of a pituitary adenoma will help your neurosurgeon determine which procedure is the safest and the best way to remove the tumor.

Transsphenoidal surgery

Anyone who works in the U.S. and plans to have this surgery should fill out all of the required FMLA paperwork the moment you are told you will have this procedure. FMLA stands for the Family and Medical Leave Act, which entitles eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for certain medical procedures.

Do not waste time getting this paperwork filed. Stay after your company’s human resources department to make sure it is approved. Trust me, you will appreciate this after having the surgery.

If you have pets, make arrangements for someone to check on them and feed them for about five days. Although their help may not be needed for that long, it’s good to have it covered just in case.

On the day of the surgery, make sure you have clean clothes and undergarments for each day you will be there. If you like to binge-watch TV shows and movies, make sure to bring a streaming device. Bring books or anything you like to do for self-care or relaxation. If anything needs to be taken care of before you go to the hospital, make sure it is finished, because you will need to rest following the surgery.

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The last thing to remember is to make sure you are not alone. Please ensure that someone will be there with you in the hospital. This is not a time to feel ashamed or embarrassed, or not wanting to bother anyone. You will need help and support, period.

Please keep in mind that there is only so much the nursing staff can do, and you are not the only patient they have. So, it is important to have someone else there with you to help with other things.

The procedure usually lasts about four hours. My surgery actually took longer due to an unforeseen complication. After surgery, you will spend two or three nights in the ICU for monitoring. One thing doctors will be looking for is diabetes insipidus.

My time in the ICU wasn’t bad, but I was glad my wife was there. There were moments at night when I was extremely hot or cold, as I felt my body regulating temperature again. Another thing, your nose will be packed, but do not mess with it.

After that period, you will be moved out of the ICU to a regular room to be monitored. If all checks out well, you will be discharged with specific instructions. You must follow these instructions to the letter.

Recovery time is about 4-6 weeks, so use every bit of this time to recover, and more if needed. My suggestion is to take this time to truly heal physically and mentally. I think I made the mistake of jumping back into work too soon. If I could do it over again, my approach would be different.

Gamma Knife

The Gamma Knife is an outpatient procedure that can last from 30 minutes to three hours. When I had it done, it took about 2.5 hours.

During Gamma Knife, a frame is attached to the head with four pins — two in the front on the forehead, and two on the back of the head. A numbing agent is provided before the head frame is attached.

Next, you will be escorted to a room where the procedure will be performed. You will lie down in a machine that is similar to an MRI, but only your head will remain all the way inside. When the procedure is finished, the head frame is removed, and you can then go home.

I’m pretty sure your specialist will tell you this, but in case they don’t, make sure someone drives you home afterward. The headache after this procedure is tough, but it wears off by the next day.

I hope this is helpful to those wondering what to expect from these procedures. Please keep in mind that every experience is different, so do your own research, but don’t get caught up reading about negative experiences. There are more success stories than bad outcomes.

Keep thriving!

Have you had either of these procedures? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. 


Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.


Margaret latta avatar

Margaret latta

my son had both performed on him and the doctors lied to him telling him his body was going to reverse back to his self niddeles to say my son passed away at the young age of 39 my heart is broken 💔 for ever being lied to wishing everyone else a full life with this horrible disease there's no hope

Sydney Diaz avatar

Sydney Diaz

I had the Transsphenoidal surgery back in January of 2019 at the age of 19 years old. The procedure seemed extremely easy for me - I actually got up 2 hours after waking up and walked 10 laps around the ICU! The one thing I will say that I was not prepared for (and shocked that I wasn't told prior) was losing my sense of taste and smell for about 2 weeks. I also felt like I had a very severe sinus infection during my healing process. I only needed to take Tylenol a handful of times during my recovery, so that really shows how easy it truly was. The surgery was simple - the recovery over the next few years was the hardest part. Your body has to learn how to live without the tumor again - so please give it time and extra consideration after this procedure. I wish I had not been so hard on myself to try to return to "normal" too quick. It is okay to take time, time will be your bestfriend.


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