First Patient Treated with New Esprit Gamma Knife

Pittsburgh, February 13, 2024 -- A new era began at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh as stereotactic radiosurgery pioneer L. Dade Lunsford, MD, and the staff at the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery treated their first patient with the new state-of-the-art Elekta Esprit Gamma Knife. 

Esprit is the seventh generation of the groundbreaking Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery treatment device developed in Sweden by Lars Leksell in the late 1960s and brought to North America to then Presbyterian University Hospital in Pittsburgh by Dr. Lunsford in 1987.


Gamma Knife surgery represents one of the most advanced means available to manage brain tumors; arteriovenous malformations and pain or movement disorders. Requiring no surgical incision to expose the target, the Gamma Knife can destroy deep-seated brain tumors and blood vessel malformations in the head once considered inoperable. 

Key advantages of the Gamma Knife include:

  • Quality of life is protected through very low body dose and exceptional accuracy that spares healthy tissue,
  • Vital precision safeguards motor, sensory and neurocognitive function to help preserve the essence of the patient, and
  • Noninvasive brain treatment establishes a gentler alternative to open surgery and conventional radiotherapy. Patients typically return home the same day.

The UPMC Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery Gamma Knife program is one of the leading stereotactic radiosurgery programs in the world, having performed more than 18,500 procedures over 37 years. The center is also a leading training site, attracting neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, medical physicists, fellows and residents from around the world. In addition to the new Esprit unit, the center also operates the sixth generation ICON Gamma Knife unit.

John Flickinger, MD, was the radiation oncologist on the first Esprit case, while Greg Bednarz, PhD, was the medical physicist.