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UPMC Treats 10,000th Patient With Gamma Knife

Department of Neurological Surgery is North American Leader in Gamma Knife Treatment for Brain Tumors


PITTSBURGH, December 22, 2009 – UPMC neurosurgeons have performed their 10,000th surgery with the gamma knife, which destroys brain tumors many considered inoperable. Gamma knife procedures are non-invasive, computer-driven, bloodless brain surgeries that require no incisions. The milestone surgery, the removal of a metastatic brain tumor from an 81-year-old man from Greensburg, Pa. further distinguishes UPMC as a world leader in radiosurgery experience. In 1987, L. Dade Lunsford, MD, distinguished professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and co-director, Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery, UPMC, was the first clinician in North America to use the gamma knife. He and colleague Douglas Kondziolka, MD, went on to guide the gamma knife designers and manufacturers in the subsequent generations of gamma knife technology, all of which were pioneered first at UPMC.

“Our involvement in the development of clinical uses for the gamma knife has given us the rare opportunity that few clinicians experience to shape the field of radiosurgery,” said Dr. Lunsford. Gamma knife radiosurgery is a multidisciplinary procedure that relies on the talents of radiation oncologists and medical physicists who partner with neurosurgeons in the treatment of often difficult clinical problems.

“We have learned from these 10,000 cases that by helping to advance this technology, we are able to deliver optimal management of patients with increasingly complex and often deadly brain tumors and other brain and vein abnormalities. Thankfully, in most cases, we can extend our patients’ lives and preserve and enhance the quality of their lives,” said Dr. Kondziolka, who is the Peter Jannetta Professor and vice-chairman of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and shares co-directorship of the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery with Dr. Lunsford.

Since the first gamma knife unit was installed at UPMC in 1987 – the first unit in North America – patients from around the world have traveled to UPMC for treatment. The UPMC gamma knife center is a highly regarded international training and research center, holding numerous courses each year for neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists and medical physicists worldwide.

Note: Both Drs. Lunsford and Kondziolka are paid consultants to AB Elekta, the developer and manufacturer of the gamma knife. Dr. Lunsford also is a stockholder of AB Elekta.

UPMC Media Relations