Bob Shallit

‘Knife’ brings pain-free laser radiosurgery to Sutter patients

Medical 'knife' adds precision to brain surgery at Sutter

A new twist on 'Gamma Knife' radiation surgery makes procedure easier on patients. The device at Sutter Medical Center is first in North America. Gamma knife uses radiation to treat brain disorders.
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A new twist on 'Gamma Knife' radiation surgery makes procedure easier on patients. The device at Sutter Medical Center is first in North America. Gamma knife uses radiation to treat brain disorders.

Getting radiation treatment for brain tumors and tremors can be a bit like “medieval torture.” At least according to Dr. Samuel Ciricillo, director of neurosurgery at Sutter Medical System in Sacramento.

Patients are immobilized by having a halo-like metal frame attached to their skulls with sharp screws.

“Some get migraine-like headaches ... A lot of people pass out,” Ciricillo said of the procedure that’s been little changed for decades. He notes that the metal frame is not all that different from pictures he’s seen of torture instruments used in the 16th century.

That’s changing at Sutter following its recent acquisition of a $7 million “Gamma Knife” aimed at improving patient outcomes while eliminating pain.

The device – the first of its type to be used in North America – is equipped with an advanced imaging system that allows doctors to quickly pinpoint tumors and keep patients still in a far less rigid way.

If there’s one thing people complained about, it was the pain of having screws put into their heads.

Dr. Samuel Ciricillo, on the old method of of doing radiosurgery

All patients have to do is put their faces into individually molded plastic masks. “Like going trick or treating,” Ciricillo said.

The new device also improves outcomes for patients by making it more palatable for them to get two or three treatments during a week, receiving smaller and safer doses of radiation each time than the full amount they’d need to get in just one session.

With the old system, “nobody” would want to go through the ordeal of having the halo installed more than once, Ciricillo said.

Sutter’s new machine debuted March 1. The first patient, Steven Ramsey of El Dorado Hills, was treated for a metastatic brain tumor.

“It was pretty much completely painless,” Ramsey said of the Gamma Knife procedure. He was able to listen to his favorite music – a Chopin piece – during the 25-minute procedure.

His prognosis? “They zapped it and hopefully it won’t come back,” the 52-year-old said.

Ciricillo said he expects patients to flock here from all over as they learn that Sutter has the only “frameless” Gamma Knife on this continent.

How did Sutter end up being just the seventh institution worldwide to get the new machine?

Ciricillo said the hospital system was expecting delivery of the newest model of the old-style machine from its Swedish manufacturer when the FDA approved use of the new technology in November. Sutter quickly asked for an upgrade.

“Nobody else was in line,” Ciricillo said. “It was just a bit of fate.”

Penny-wise?

Sacramento’s Temple Coffee Roasters is going all out on the design of its newest shop.

The most distinctive feature: More than 500,000 pennies, coated with epoxy and laid out on custom floor tiles that cover every square inch of floor and the front of counters.

“From afar, it has this chic, coppery look,” said Cole Cuchna, Temple’s creative director, who added it wasn’t that easy to get all the pennies needed to create tiles for the 2,400-square-foot shop at 22nd and K streets.

“We had to go to the bank every day for two weeks because they had a cap on how many you could get each day,” he said.

The shop, opening March 26, is Temple’s fifth in the region – and was designed to be special to mark the company’s 10th year in business.

Besides the pennies, cool elements include an airy space with exposed trusses, midcentury modern-style furniture and fixtures, two vintage bicycles perched on window ledges and, right at the entrance, one of founder and CEO Sean Kohmescher’s prized possessions: a 1941 Indian Chief motorcycle.

This is the heart of the artsy, creative consciousness that’s midtown and we wanted a space that reflected that.

Cole Cuchna, Temple Coffee Roasters

Outside seating will include several chairs fashioned from boulders. Desserts are being specially made for the location by Sugar Mama’s Bakery in Carmichael.

As for the coffee, Cuchna said Temple will have automated pour-over machines, Kyoto drippers that make cold brew with a “bourbon type finish” and a nitro tap system that produces a cold brew with a “stout Guinness texture.”

Kohmescher said the Kyoto and pour-over systems together cost more than $10,000. He’s not disclosing his entire investment in the new place.

Our guess? A pretty penny.

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