L. Dade Lunsford, MD

  • Lars Leksell & Distinguished Professor
  • Director Emeritus, Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery
  • Associate Director, Neurological Surgery Residency

L. Dade Lunsford, MD, is the Lars Leksell Professor and Distinguished Professor at the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also director emeritus of the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and an internationally recognized authority on stereotactic surgery, radiosurgery, and minimally invasive surgery.

In 1981 Dr. Lunsford was the first in the world to install a dedicated CT scanner in an operating room, merging surgery with imaging for the first time. More than 10,000 patients have undergone various image-guided surgical procedures since that time.

In 1987, Dr. Lunsford was responsible for bringing the Gamma Knife to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the first center in the United States to offer this state-of-the-art, minimally invasive form of brain surgery. Since that time, more than 18,000 patients have undergone brain stereotactic radiosurgery using continuously updated version of the Gamma Knife. He and his team have trained more than 2,500 surgeons, oncologists and physicists in the field of radiosurgery via training courses conducted six times per year.

Dr. Lunsford graduated from the University of Virginia and then received his medical degree in 1974 from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed his internship in surgery at the University of Virginia Hospital and his residency in neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh training under Peter Jannetta. Following a one-year fellowship in stereotactic and functional neurosurgery at the Karolinska institute in Stockholm, Sweden—where he studied with professors Lars Leksell and Erik-Olof Backlund—he joined the Department of Neurological Surgery faculty in 1981.

[Read also Lunsford Named Recipient of Patient Award.]

He is an active staff member of several UPMC hospitals and was president of the medical staff at UPMC Presbyterian from 1999-2001 and past president of the Council of Clinical Chairs for the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2001-2003. Dr. Lunsford chairs the UPMC Health System Technology and Innovative Practice (TIPAC) committee and co-chairs the UPMC Brain Mapping (MEG) Center.

Dr. Lunsford has been board-certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery since 1983. He is the author of more than 1,400 published articles, abstracts, and book chapters and has served as the editor or co-editor of 17 books.

Dr. Lunsford served as department chairman of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery for ten years, before stepping down in July of 2006 to devote more time to his clinical work, clinical investigation, and resident and fellow training. He also served as the department residency program director from 1987 until 2020.

Since 2012, he has served as a team physician (neurosurgeon) for the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

In 2016, Dr. Lunsford received the Cushing Award for Technical Excellence and Innovation in Neurosurgery from the American Association of Neurological Surgery. In December of 2017, he received the prestigious Herbert Olivecrona Award—considered by some as the “Nobel Prize of Neurosurgery”—from the Karolinska Institute & Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. In April of 2018, he was honored to present the 2018 Van Wagenen Lecture during the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Annual Meeting in New Orleans. On June 19, 2020, he delivered the inaugural Dan Leksell Lecture at the fourth meeting of the International Radiosurgery Research Foundation. In 2021, Dr. Lunsford received the Andrew Parsa award for mentorship from the AANS-CNS Section on Tumors and delivered the annual Ronald Bittner Lecture. In May 2022 he delivered the inaugural Lunsford Radiosurgery Lecture at the Miami Baptist Cancer Institute.

Since 2002 Dr. Lunsford has been a Castle Connolly Top Doctor and currently serves on their Board of Medical Advisors. 

Dr. Lunsford's publications can be reviewed through the National Library of Medicine's publication database.

Specialized Areas of Interest

Brain tumor management; Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery; movement disorders and trigeminal neuralgia; vascular malformations; concussion and sports medicine.

Board Certifications

American Board of Neurological Surgery

Hospital Privileges

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
UPMC Presbyterian
UPMC Shadyside
UPMC St. Margaret (Consulting)

Professional Organization Membership

AANS/CNS Joint Section for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery (chair, 1995-97)
Allegheny County Medical Society
American Academy of Neurological Surgery
American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Fellow
American College of Surgeons, Fellow
American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery (president, 1995-97)
Congress of Neurological Surgeons
Florida Medical Association
International Radiosurgery Research Foundation, (founding chair)
International Stereotactic Radiosurgery Society, (co-founder and president, 1991-1993)
North American Skull Base Society (prior Honored Guest)
Pennsylvania Medical Society
Pennsylvania Neurosurgical Society

Professional Activities

Course Co-Director, Principles and Practices of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, UPMC
Past Chair and Founder, International Radiosurgery Research Foundation
Team Co-Neurosurgeon, Pittsburgh Penguins, National Hockey League
Chair Data Safety Monitoring Board, Insightec
Consultant, Teladoc, Inc.

Education & Training

  • BA, University of Virginia, 1970
  • MD, Columbia University, 1974
  • Internship, General Surgery, University of Virginia, 1975
  • Residency, University of Pittsburgh, 1980
  • Fellowship, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, Karolinska Sjukhuset, 1981

Honors & Awards

  • Pittsburgh’s Best Doctors, Pittsburgh Magazine, 2012-23
  • Inaugural Lunsford Radiosurgery Lecture, Miami Baptist Cancer Institute, 2022
  • Andy T. Parsa Mentorship Award, AANS/CNS Section on Tumors, 2021
  • Ronald L. Bittner Lecturer, AANS/CNS Section on Tumors, 2021
  • Excellence in Patient Experience Award, UPMC, 2018
  • Van Wagenen Lecturer, American Association of Neurological Surgeons Annual Meeting, 2018
  • Herbert Olivecrona Award, Karolinska Institute & Karolinska University Hospital, 2017
  • AANS Cushing Award for Technical Excellence and Innovation in Neurosurgery, 2016
  • Best Doctors in America, Pittsburgh Business Times, 2016
  • American Most Honored Professionals, Top 1%, 2016
  • America’s Top Doctors for Cancer, Castle Connolly Medical, Ltd., 2005-16
  • Best Doctors in America, 2005-16
  • Top Doctor, The Global Directory of Who’s Who, Neurological Surgery, 2013-16
  • Best Doctors in America database, 2010-16
  • Who’s Who In America, Marquis, 2003, 2006-14
  • Pioneers in Radiosurgery Award, Leksell Gamma Knife Society, 2010
  • Leading Health Professionals of the World, 2010
  • Faculty Teaching Award, Department of Neurosurgery 1997, 1999, 2000, 2010
  • Guide to America’s Top Surgeons, 2006-09
  • Allegheny County Medical Society Ralph C. Wilde Award, 2008
  • Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. National Physician of the Year Award, 2008
  • Who’s Who in the World, 2008
  • Distinguished Professor, University of Pittsburgh, 2007
  • Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, 2007
  • Congress of Neurological Surgeons Honored Guest, 2007
  • AANS Young Neurosurgeon Award, 2005
  • Academic Keys Who’s Who in Medical Sciences Education, 2005
  • Lars Leksell Provost Lecture, 2000
  • International Stereotactic Radiosurgery Jacob Fabrikant Award, 1997
  • William S. McEllroy Award, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 1997
  • Good Housekeeping Best Doctors, 1996
  • William P. Van Wagenen Fellowship, AANS, 1980
  • Phi Beta Kappa - University of Virginia, 1970
  • BA with High Honors - University of Virginia, 1970

Media Appearances

Radiosurgery Experts Meet in Miami to Discuss Important Treatment Developments
December 1, 2023
South Florida Hospital News

More About Steroids for Sepsis
February 1, 2019
NEJM Journal Watch Audio

Ask the Expert: Can Neurosurgery Residency Be Shorter Than 7 Years?
Spring 2018
CNS Congress Quarterly

Donor Nancy Dunlap
March 7, 2017
University of Pittsburgh PittGiving

Proud to be from Pittsburgh: UPMC medical student
August 5, 2016

Treated for a brain tumor at 16, VCOM student rotates with his former neurosurgeon
August 3, 2016
The DO - American Osteopathic Association

Lifesaving neurosurgeon inspires career in medicine
July 10, 2016
Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Lunsford Discusses Gamma Knife (mp3)
February 29, 2016
KDKA Morning News Show

Studies still looking for link between cell phones and brain tumors
May 22, 2014

Pitt recruit Blair overcomes stroke
September 6, 2013

Gamma Knife surgical team marks 25 years since first test
August 13, 2012
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Repeat Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Fixes Most Brain AVMs
April 20, 2011 
Medscape Today News

A drug’s unintended use restores the gift of hearing
July 9, 2009
Boston Globe

St. Joes - 3 OF A KIN: The Calathes brothers are in each other's corners
January 15, 2008 
Philadelphia Daily News

New Perfexion Gamma Knife unit installed at UPMC Presbyterian
October 9, 2007
WTAE-TV Pittsburgh

Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery (.wmv)
August 11, 2005
Sky Radio

UPMC OnTopic Discussions

Glycerol Rhizotomy Treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia
Dr. Lunsford explains trigeminal neuralgia and the advantages of using glycerol rhizotomy, a rapid action procedure, for treatment.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia
Dr. Lunsford explains trigeminal neuralgia and the advantages of using the Gamma Knife, a non-invasive one-day procedure, for treatment.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Acoustic Neuromas
Lunsford, MD, explains acoustic neuromas and the advantages of using the Gamma Knife, a non-invasive one-day procedure, for treatment.