Pittsburgh Gamma Knife Marks 25th Anniversary



by L. Dade Lunsford, MD; John C. Flickinger, MD; Ajay Niranjan, MDHideyuki Kano MD, PhDPeter C. Gerszten, MD

Pittsburgh, July 30, 2012 -- On August 14, 2012, the UPMC Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the installation of the Gamma Knife at the University of Pittsburgh, a novel and game-changing program in brain surgery.

In the mid 1980s, UPMC was willing to take a risk on a unique, largely unknown, and innovative strategy for the management of carefully selected patients with brain tumors, vascular malformations, selected movement disorders, and chronic pain.

[See also: Gamma Knife surgical team marks 25 years since first test in Pittsburgh Post Gazette.] 

The installment at our center of the first Gamma Knife in North America was the culmination of more than five years of preparatory work. The first patient who was treated had an arteriovenous malformation of the brain. It is appropriate that on August 14, 2012 -- our silver anniversary -- the first patient on that day will also have an arteriovenous malformation.

During this 25-year interval almost 12,000 patients have undergone Gamma Knife radiosurgery using the original U unit, the B unit, the C unit (the first practical use of intracranial robotics) and the latest technology, the Perfexion® device.

The number of patients who undergo Gamma Knife brain surgery at our center has grown to more than by 650 patients annually.

Dramatic advances in imaging, dose planning, and outcomes have been achieved. Our spectrum of cases now includes a large number of patients whose cancer has spread to the brain, patients who previously had very unsatisfactory options for control of their disease.

In the process, we and others, have helped to ensure that when this devastating event occurs, patients can survive provided that aggressive management of their systemic cancer site is possible.

Although initially relatively few scientific scientific articles could detail long-term outcomes, during the last 25 years we have published more than 500 peer-reviewed articles, hundreds of book chapters, and seven books related to the role and impact of radiosurgery in the brain.

In addition, using modified linear accelerators, radiosurgery is now used in the treatment of many types of spinal tumors.

In tandem with the use of radiosurgical technology, we have also established the paradigm of a multi-disciplinary team of caregivers for every patient who will undergo radiosurgery: neurological surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical physicists, medical neuro-oncologists, imaging specialists, and dedicated nursing personnel. Together this partnership has led to a dramatic increase in the role of radiosurgery. Radiosurgery is effective and, most importantly, cost effective.

On behalf of the professional staff of our center, I would like to thank you for your support over these many years as we celebrate our silver anniversary.

UPMC has been an international leader in the development of radiosurgery and in establishing its scientific basis and its long-term medical effectiveness.

Millions of patients worldwide have benefited from not just minimally invasive, but noninvasive radiosurgery of the brain and spine.