Cancer Information

Radiation Implants for a Brain Tumor

Radiation implants may be used to slow or help control tumor growth. This form of treatment is known as  brachytherapy (also called interstitial radiation). With this process, the radiation attacks the tumor from within the body. The implants are placed during a surgery that is followed by a hospital stay.


Brachytherapy is used for small, localized tumors. It may also be used along with other types of radiation.

You may be awake during the procedure. If so, local anesthesia may numb the area where the surgeon is working. Or general anesthesia may be given to let you sleep.

Thin, hollow tubes (called catheters) will be placed into small holes in your skull. The implants (also called seeds or pellets) are sent through the catheters into the tumor.

The seeds may give off a low level of radiation. Because of this, you will be in a private room. Visitors may wear lead aprons or vests. You might need to wear a helmet.

Your hospital stay may last up to 7 days. The seeds will be left in place for about 5 days. Some types of very low-dose seeds are left in place a few months or permanently. These seeds may need to be placed during a craniotomy. Their radioactivity wears off over time.

Side effects and risks include infection, seizures, headache, necrosis (death of surrounding tissue), and brain swelling.