Gamma Knife ©: What is Radiosurgery?

Shannon Kahn, MDRadiosurgery, also known as stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic radiation therapy, is a non-invasive, outpatient alternative to traditional brain surgery (neurosurgery). It’s performed by a machine called Gamma Knife©, which isn’t a knife in the traditional sense; rather it uses 192 precisely-focused beams of radiation to target and destroy tumors without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.

In clinical use since 1968 [1], Gamma Knife© is used largely to treat cancerous brain tumors. It is also used to treat benign brain tumors such as pituitary tumors, meningiomas and acoustic neuromas, which are tumors related to balance and hearing. Gamma Knife has also proven effective in treating functional neurologic disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia.

“Gamma Knife© is an unparalleled technology that has extensive research supporting its effectiveness and safety. Being able to offer this treatment and expertise to our patients at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital is a unique strength of our program in which we take great pride,” said Shannon Kahn, MD, radiation oncologist at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

The procedure offers an alternative for patients with tumors too small or too hard to reach surgically, patients who aren’t well enough to undergo traditional surgery, or patients who just prefer a less invasive treatment. Gamma Knife © also provides an alternative to whole-brain radiation in some cases, which can decrease the cognitive and memory problems often associated with more traditional radiation treatments.

Patients receive brain scans to pinpoint the exact location and amount of radiation that will be administered. A lightweight frame is attached to the head with four pins. Local anesthetic is used, but the patient remains awake during the procedure, which is painless and lasts from a few minutes to several hours, depending on size and location of their tumor(s).

Radiosurgery is covered by most insurance providers as well as Medicaid and Medicare, and has a very quick recovery time.

Dr. Khan notes that side effects are usually minimal. “Some patients may experience a slight headache following the procedure, but patients go home the same day and are typically back to their normal routines by the next day.”

The goal of Gamma Knife© therapy is to damage the atypical or cancerous cells and prevent them from multiplying, while preserving the healthy tissue. Malignant tumors may decrease in size over a period of a few months while the goal for benign tumors is typically tumor stabilization.

Learn more about Gamma Knife© radiosurgery at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

To contact a Gamma Knife© nurse navigator, call 678-843-5513.

[1] “Why Gamma Knife® surgery?”

Peripheral Artery Disease 101: PAD Symptoms, Causes & Risk Factors

PADPeripheral artery disease, also known as peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, is a potentially life- and limb-threatening condition in which the arteries that deliver blood from the heart to the rest of the body narrow, resulting in weakened circulation and decreased blood flow to the limbs.

PAD Causes
The narrowing of the arteries and weakening of circulation experienced by patients with peripheral artery disease is typically caused by atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of fatty deposits and plaque in the lining of blood vessels that deliver blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The specific cause of atherosclerosis isn’t known, but it is thought that unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and poor diet/exercise habits, among other things, can lead to damage of the inner parts of arteries, thereby causing the formation of plaque as the body tries to heal itself.

PAD Risk Factors
According to the National Institute of Health, those most at risk for PAD include:

  • Smokers
  • People with Diabetes
  • Adults Over the Age of 50
  • People who are considered obese
  • People with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or who have a family history of either
  • People who have experienced a stroke or who have a family history of stroke
  • People with coronary heart disease or who have a family history of CHD
  • People with Metabolic syndrome

Having any combination of the above risk factors may put you at an even higher risk for peripheral artery disease.

PAD Symptoms
“It’s important to note that many people suffering from peripheral artery disease do not experience any symptoms,” said Michael Clark, MD, vascular surgeon at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. “When they do occur, the most common symptom of PAD is leg pain.”

This leg pain presents itself when walking, climbing stairs, or exercising and generally improves with rest, which is also known as claudication, said Dr. Clark. Claudication is experienced by roughly 10 percent of all PAD patients.

Other peripheral artery disease symptoms may include coldness in the lower extremities, decreased hair growth (especially on the legs), and numbness and/or tingling in the lower legs and feet.

If you have any risk factors for PAD, whether you’re experiencing symptoms or not, talk to your physician and ask if you should be screened.

Find out more about vascular services at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

To find a vascular surgeon, call 888-250-STJO (7856).

Understanding Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines: Mammograms, Clinical Breast Exams & More

mammogramAccording to data from the National Cancer Institute, approximately 12% of all women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their lifetime. Statistics like these, combined with recent high profile cases such as Angelina Jolie undergoing a preventive double mastectomy, have led many women to ask what type of breast cancer screenings they need and when, to ensure they are prioritizing their breast health and catching any breast abnormalities as early as possible.

To help clear up confusion and promote early detection, the American Cancer Society (ACS) provides guidelines for breast screenings, ranging from recommendations around breast self exams, to clinical breast exams (CBEs) and mammograms, to MRIs.

“While breast screenings can’t prevent breast cancer, they can help make sure cases are diagnosed early, when they are most treatable,” said Linda Byrd, RN, breast cancer patient navigator at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

Breast Self Exams
Self-awareness and examination of the breasts is an option that’s recommended by the ACS beginning when a woman is in her 20s. A breast self exam (BSE) is a step-by-step way for a woman to examine her own breasts for changes and abnormalities. Visit our site for more information on how to conduct a proper breast self exam.

Clinical Breast Exam Screening Guidelines
A clinical breast exam is an exam in which a medical professional examines the breasts looking for any abnormalities in the size, shape, or skin of the breasts.

The ACS recommends women in their 20s and 30s get clinical breast exams every three years. For women age 40 and over, the ACS recommends getting a CBE every year.

Screening Mammogram Guidelines
A mammogram provides X-ray images of the breast that can help detect abnormalities that can’t always be felt and found during a CBE, such as some tumors. Mammograms are also able to identify microcalcifications in the breast, which can be another sign of breast cancer.

The ACS recommends yearly mammograms for all women beginning at age 40 and continuing as long as the woman is in good health. For women with serious and chronic health problems (e.g. end-stage renal disease or congestive heart failure), the ACS recommends discussing breast screening options with their doctor.

Guidelines for Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer

For women at a high risk for breast cancer, the ACS recommends a combination of both a mammogram and an MRI on a yearly basis. Women at high risk include those who:

  • have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20-25% or greater based on family history-focused risk assessment tools and techniques
  • had radiation therapy to the chest area between the ages of ten and 30 years old
  • have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation or a first-degree relative with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation

Because an MRI may miss some forms of cancer that could be caught by screening mammogram, the ACS recommends that if an MRI is used, it should be used in conjunction with a standard screening mammogram.

Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital offers a comprehensive breast health program, including patient navigators who guide patients through the testing and treatment process.

To speak to Linda Byrd, the breast cancer patient navigator, call 678-843-7118.

To schedule a screening mammogram at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, call 404-686-0500.

For more information on early detection and breast screening guidelines, visit the American Cancer Society website.

Spring to Safety: When Outdoor Activities Leave Us Injured

Leg InjurySay goodbye to the Polar Vortex and hello to the sun! It’s the time of year where we get out from under the covers and start signing up for outdoor activities and sports. Getting active outdoors helps us stay fit and healthy, and is a source of fun when spending time with family and friends. Though those are all positive outcomes from outdoor play, there can be unintended, and sometimes dangerous, consequences in the form of serious physical injury.

Some of the most common sports injuries, according to the National Institutes of Health, are:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Knee injuries
  • Swollen muscles
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

Though many of the injuries listed above can be easily prevented with proper stretching and warm ups, and can be treated with the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation), traumatic brain injuries may require emergency medical attention.

Sometimes, a mild hit can occur to the head, whether by falls, bumping into things, or being hit by others. However, even a mild hit can develop into something more serious and can disrupt the normal functioning of your brain. Concussions and mild TBI’s are the most common types of brain injuries, with approximately 1.7 million people suffering from them each year, and they contribute to a third of all injury related deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mild symptoms may include feelings of confusion, drowsiness, minor memory loss, seeing flashing lights and a headache, in which case your doctor should see you as soon as possible. However, if you or a loved one experiences any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately to seek emergency medical care:

  • Changes in consciousness
  • Constant confusion that doesn’t go away quickly
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Muscle weakness on one or both sides of the body
  • Unequal pupil size between the two eyes (one larger, one smaller)
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Remaining unconsciousness (coma)
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Balancing problems, affecting walking and other movement

To prepare for emergencies that may happen during your time outside, print out this handy guide to Know When to Go to the ER, and stick it on your fridge for quick reference in the future, or go to your general practitioner for assistance with non-urgent medical needs.

Related Resources

Saint Joseph’s Emergency Department
Play It Safe: Know the Signs of a Concussion

Spring to Safety: Stay Safe When Spring Rains Lead to Flooding

Flood PreparednessFloods are one of the most serious and costly types of disasters in the United States, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Association. Though now is the time we start participating in outdoor activities and enjoying the sun, it’s also flood season. Be sure to take precautions to ensure a fun and safe spring for you and your family.

Floods can be caused by spring thaws or ice jams, extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes or tropical storms or even after a wildfire. To prepare, you should do the following, according to national guidelines:

  • Build an emergency kit
    • Enough clean water, non-perishable food and supplies to last at least 72 hours
      • Water: one gallon per person per day
      • Canned food
      • Manual can opener
      • Battery powered or hand crank radio
      • Extra batteries
      • Flashlight
      • First Aid Kit
      • Whistle to signal for assistance
      • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to create a makeshift shelter
      • Garbage bags, plastic ties and sanitation wipes for personal hygiene
      • Wrench or plier to turn off utilities (to prevent possible electrocution)
      • Cell phone with chargers or extra battery
    • This is to supplement other supplies you may have at home, and does not include:
      • Pet supplies
      • Baby supplies
      • Medications for current health conditions
  • Make a family emergency and communication plan, then practice flood evacuation routes from home, school and work
  • Get flood insurance
    • This is not usually included in home insurance
    • Even if you are in a low risk area, it might be good to purchase it. Lower risk means lower premiums.


If a flood is likely to hit your area, make sure you stay tuned to the radio or weather channel and move to higher ground at first notice. If you are told to evacuate, secure your home if you have time. Move essential items to higher floors and bring in outdoor furniture if possible. Turn off utilities if instructed to do so, but do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or are standing in water. Avoid floodwaters, and do not attempt to drive in them. Cars can be swept away in as little as two feet of water.

In case an emergency situation occurs call 911 immediately. Otherwise download this this handy guide to Know When to Go to the ER, and stick it on your fridge for quick reference in the future or go to your general practitioner for assistance with non-urgent medical needs.

Related Resources:

Play it Safe: Know the Signs of a Concussion

When Should You Go to the ER?

Planning for an Emergency: The Whole First Aid Kit and Caboodle

Spring to Safety: Stay Safe While Spring Cleaning

Spring CleaningThe weather is warming up, flowers are blooming, and the sun is finally out after unprecedented snow around the country! Every year around this time, we are prompted to clean our homes, fix up the garden, and be outside. This involves movements like lifting, bending, moving heavy objects, and climbing up ladders, among other tasks, which can lead to injuries. Read on for tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this season.

Falls are the second cause of unintentional death in homes in the U.S. and cause about 8.9 million emergency room visits, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). The NSC also provides tips to prevent slips and falls:

  • Avoid freshly mopped floors
  • Keep all electrical cords away from high-traffic areas in the house
  • Keep your cleaning materials and other frequently used items in easy-to-reach areas
  • Clean up obstacles such as paper, boxes, books, toys and shoes from stairs and main walkways
  • Make sure you have adequate lighting when you are working or cleaning inside or outdoors
  • While working on your house or lawn, make sure you wear shoes with good support and slip-resistant soles
  • Remove debris from walkways outside
  • Check the condition of your steps and walkways every so often, and repair any damages
  • Don’t stand on a chair, table or other item with wheels while trying to get to high reaches; use a ladder instead

On that note, make sure that when you use a ladder, you keep at least three points of contact with it, whether two feet and a hand, or two hands and a foot. Also, make sure the base is on a flat, dry surface, and climb facing the ladder, using the rungs for grip instead of the side rails. Finally, use a tool belt so you don’t have to climb with tools in hand, climb down one rung at a time, don’t lean or reach too far, and do not use your ladder during windy or inclement weather.

If using lawn tools, keep these tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in mind:

  • Dress appropriately: Wear close-fitting long pants and long-sleeved shirts, no jewelry, eye protection, ear plugs and sturdy gloves
  • Remove objects from the area where you are working so you are not injured if they are thrown by your equipment
  • Never let a child operate or ride on a riding mower, and supervise teens using outdoor power equipment
  • Unplug electric tools and disconnect spark plug wires on gas-powered tools before you make any adjustments or clean near moving parts
  • Do not use electric power tools in wet or damp conditions. Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to protect against electrocution

If you find that you have seriously injured yourself, whether by falling, or cutting yourself on lawn/wood tools, and it is an emergency, please call 911 immediately so you may be taken to an emergency department. Otherwise, print out this handy guide to Know When to Go to the ER, and stick it on your fridge for quick reference in the future or go to your general practitioner for assistance with non-urgent medical needs.

Happy Home Improvement!

Related Resources:

Saint Joseph’s Emergency Department

Prepare Your Body for Summer

Emergency First Aid Kit Supplies

Emory Saint Joseph’s Nurses are Amazing! Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital Receives Fifth Magnet® Designation!

Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital Magnet DesignationCongratulations to the team at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital who just received its fifth Magnet® designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center! Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital is one of only three hospitals – and the only community hospital — in the world to receive five consecutive designations.

Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital became the third hospital in the world to receive Magnet designation when it received its first designation in 1995. And, every four years since, the hospital has successfully achieved re-designation. While every designation is special in its own way, we like to think that our nurses live Magnet every day with every encounter. So, what does Magnet mean to you, our patients? Magnet designation means that:

  • We’re all in this together. Our nurses work in a collaborative environment and benefit from each other’s knowledge and breadth of experience.
  • Our nurses are the cream of the crop! Magnet facilities regularly attract and retain top nursing talent.
  • You can feel confident that you’re in good hands. The Magnet Recognition Program establishes standards of excellence which health care organizations like ours must attain and maintain.

We’re particularly proud that Emory Healthcare is the only health system in Georgia to have two hospitals designated as Magnet facilities – Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital and Emory University Hospital, which was recognized for the first time in January. Currently, there are fewer than 400 Magnet-designated facilities around the globe, and six of those are in the state of Georgia. We couldn’t be prouder of the hard work that our team has put in for years to get to this point!

We’d also like to thank all of our amazing nurses and nursing leaders for their perseverance and dedication on our road to Magnet designation. If you have an Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital nurse you’d like to give a special shout out to, let us know in the comments below!

Baked Kale Chips – Full of Heart-Healthy Benefits

kale-chipsKale has grown in popularity over the past few years, rising to superfood status. This nutritious leafy green hasn’t earned this without reason; kale has unique health benefits that set it apart from other raw vegetables. Here are a few amazing benefits that make kale such a superstar:

  1. Kale is full of antioxidants, particularly carotenoids and flavonoids, which help fight cancer. It also has anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which can stop the development of arthritis and high blood pressure.
  2. Kale has high amounts of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, which help boost the immune system. Vitamin A helps fight the production of DNA in cancerous cells, while Vitamin C helps prevent cardiovascular disease, eye disease, skin aging and prenatal health problems.
  3. Kale is also loaded with Vitamin K. This vitamin has been shown to help blood clot, and assists in several body functions like bone and eye health. It also can help prevent liver cancer.
  4. Kale is a good source of the nutrients calcium and iron. It actually contains more calcium than milk, calorie for calorie, and more iron than beef! Calcium and iron help prevent bone loss and osteoporosis, while maintaining a healthy metabolism and muscle and brain function.

To maximize these benefits the next time you feel peckish, try making this fast and easy recipe for Baked Kale Chips:


  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  •  ½ teaspoon of salt

*Yields 4-6 servings


  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Rinse the kale well, and spin in a salad spinner. Make sure the leaves are dry by blotting them with paper towels or a clean dishtowel.
  • Remove the stems and tougher ribs of the leaves and cut/tear into large pieces.
  • Place these pieces in a large bowl and drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil over them. Massage the oil into the leaves, making sure they are completely covered. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Scatter the kale onto a baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, or till the leaves are crisp to the touch but still dark green. They turn bitter when browned.

Nutritional Data Per Serving:

Calories: 55
Fat: 4 g
Carbohydrates: 5 g
Protein: 2 g
Sodium: 312 mg

*Recipe adapted from Gluten Free Girl and Smitten Kitchen by Kip Hardy, Food and Nutrition Services

Related Links:

Top Health Benefits of Kale, the Ultimate Superfood
Superfoods for a Super Diet!

Cancer: Understanding the Link Between Excess Weight and Cancer

overweightThe American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that one out of three cancer deaths in the U.S. is linked to excess body weight, a lack of physical activity, and/or poor nutrition. Body weight has the strongest effect on increasing cancer risk, and causes one out of five of all cancer deaths. This is at a time in which two out of three Americans are overweight.

Excess body weight and obesity have been linked with the following kinds of cancers:

  • Breast (especially in post-menopausal women)
  • Kidney
  • Colon and rectum
  • Endometrium (lining of the uterus)
  • Esophagus
  • Pancreas


The ACS also estimates that being overweight is likely to raise the risk of other cancers, ranging from cancer of the gallbladder, to aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Also, being overweight during childhood and young adulthood may put you at a higher risk of getting these cancers, possibly more so than gaining weight later in life.

The American Institute for Cancer Research explains why obesity can increase cancer risk. This is because body fat is not inactive mass. These fat cells produce the hormone estrogen, which in turn promotes cell growth – which boosts the spread of cancer. Additionally, they create proteins known to cause inflammation and insulin resistance, which can cause more cell growth and reproduction. Waist fat is the most active at producing these hormones and proteins. Apple-shaped people are at the highest risk of having these substances in their blood, causing high levels of cell division.

The good news is that this dangerous condition is mainly preventable. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight could possibly be the most effective and important way to prevent cancer!

Related Resources:

Moderating the Effects of Obesity on Liver Cancer Progression
Curbing Hormones’ Effects in Obese Patients Could Aid Against Breast Cancer

Cape Cod Fruit Salad – A Healthy Recipe Packed with Superfoods & Super Benefits!

fruit-saladWe’re currently in peak berry season, which allows us to take full advantage of the powerful nutritional benefits of berries like blueberries and cranberries! These range from brain-boosting effects, cancer prevention, and improving heart health. In addition, the American Institute of Cancer Research states that increasing the variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet can help prevent several kinds of cancer.

Blueberries and cranberries are low in fat and calories and are full of fiber. Here are a few health benefits they offer:

  1. These berries are packed with Vitamin C – almost a quarter of your daily value! Vitamin C helps form collagen and maintains healthy gums and a healthy immune system.
  2. Blueberries and cranberries can improve cardiovascular health because of their high content of anthocyanins and other anti-inflammatories. These are a type of flavonoid that can help prevent plaque and platelet build up, and can help reduce blood pressure.
  3. Cranberries and blueberries may also help prevent cancer because of the same anthocyanins that are good for your heart. Anthocyanins attack free radicals – which can cause cancer. They have even been shown to block the formation of tumor cells.
  4. Blueberries boost brain health, especially for memory and preventing cognitive decline with old age.
  5. Both prevent urinary tract infections, which might be what cranberries are best known for. They have a high level of proanthocyanidins that can stop bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract walls, fighting infection.

The Cape Cod Fruit Salad is a delicious way to incorporate both blueberries and cranberries in your diet, along with other healthy and delicious foods such as walnuts and grapes. They make a wonderful side dish to chicken, pork, or fish, and the taste improves overnight.


  • Two containers of fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt, strawberry is recommended
  • One Granny Smith Apple, diced
  • ½ cup walnut pieces
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup green, seedless grapes, cut in half
  • 1 pint of blueberries


  • Mix together and refrigerate. (Yields six ½ cup servings)

Nutritional Data Per Serving:

  • Calories: 200
  • Fat: 7.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 2.3 mg
  • Sodium: 34 mg


Related Resources:

Nutrition Month Facts: Fruits and Vegetables


  1. Schmidt BM, Erdman J, Lila M. Differential effects of blueberry proanthocyanidins on androgen sensitive and insensitive human prostate cancer cell lines. Cancer Letters. 2006.
  2. Cassidy A, Mukamal K, Liu L, Franz M, Eliassen H, Rimm E. High Anthocyanin Intake Is Associated With a Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Young and Middle-Aged Women. Circulation. 2013.
  3. World Cancer Research Fund, American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington DC: AICR, 2007.

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