Peter C. Gerszten, MD

  • Peter E. Sheptak Professor
  • Vice Chair, Quality Improvement
  • Director, Percutaneous Spine Service

Peter C. Gerszten, MD, MPH, is the Peter E. Sheptak Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Gerszten joined the Department of Neurological Surgery and the UPMC Spine Services Division in 1999. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and completed his medical degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He completed his residency in neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dr. Gerszten obtained a master of public health degree from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. He completed a fellowship in spinal surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Dr. Gerszten specializes in disorders of the spine. His areas of clinical interest within the field of neurosurgery include spinal tumors, failed back syndrome, stereotactic radiosurgery of spinal lesions, minimally invasive spine surgical techniques, sacroiliac dysfunction, compression fractures, and percutaneous techniques including neuromodulation. Dr. Gerszten’s area of research is the application of outcomes research to spinal surgical interventions. He is a pioneer in the field of spine radiosurgery. His current clinical research involves the use of electrical spinal cord stimulation for a variety of neurological disorders including stroke, spinal cord injury, and spinal muscular atrophy. 

Dr. Gerszten currently serves on the editorial boards of The Spine Journal, the Journal of the North American Spine Society, Neurosurgery, the Journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgery, and The International Journal of Spine Surgery.

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

Specialized Areas of Interest

Neuromodulation; spinal cord stimulation for post-stroke paralysis; outcomes research applied to neurosurgical interventions; failed back syndrome; stereotactic radiosurgery of spinal lesions; minimally invasive spine surgical techniques

Board Certifications

American Board of Neurological Surgery

Hospital Privileges

Excela Health
UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital
UPMC Presbyterian
UPMC Shadyside
Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System

Professional Organization Membership

Allegheny County Medical Society
American Academy of Neurological Surgery
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
American Board of Neurological Surgery
American College of Surgeons
American Medical Association
Congress of Neurological Surgeons
Delta Omega Public Health National Honor Society
International Stereotactic Radiosurgery Society
Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves
North American Spine Society
Paleopathology Society
Pennsylvania Neurosurgical Society
Pennsylvania State Medical Society
The Radiosurgery Society

Professional Activities

Assistant Editor, Neurosurgery
Editorial Board, The Spine Journal
Senior Review Editor, International Journal of Spine Surgery
Associate Appointment, Carnegie Mellon University, The Neuroscience Institute Course
Course Lecturer, Principles and Practice of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, UPMC
Course Lecturer, Spine Surgery Anatomy Course, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Site Reviewer, Radiosurgery Accreditation Program, American College of Radiation Oncology and the Radiosurgery Society
UPMC Presbyterian Physician Unit Partner Program Leader, Unit 6D
Quality and Safety Leadership Committee, UPMC Presbyterian/Shadyside
Quality and Safety Committee Clinical Leader, UPMC Presbyterian/Shadyside

Education & Training

  • BA, University of Virginia, 1988
  • MD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 1992
  • MPH, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, 1998
  • Residency, Neurological Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, 1999
  • Fellowship, Spine Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, 2000

Honors & Awards

  • Castle Connolly Top Doctors in America, 2018-24

Research Activities

Dr. Gerszten has a research interest in spinal neuromodulation. His work explores the role of spinal cord electrical stimulation for a variety of clinical indications. Dr. Gerszten collaborates with members of the University of Pittsburgh Rehabilitation Neural Engineering Laboratory (RNEL) and the Neurosciences Institute of Carnegie Mellon University to conduct the first ever clinical trial to implant cervical spinal cord stimulators in patients with post-stroke upper limb paralysis in order to regain arm function. Epidural electrical stimulation is currently used to treat pain caused by damage or injury to the cervical spinal nerves. The implantation of electrodes over the cervical dorsal root ganglia allows for the selective engagement of hand and arm muscles by providing the surviving neural circuits with appropriate electrical signals. By adjusting the location of the cervical leads as well as modifying the electrical stimulation of the spinal cord stimulator, patients have regained the ability to use paralyzed limbs. The team has also begun clinical trials to evaluate the effect of spinal cord stimulation in patients with spinal cord injury and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). 

Dr. Gerszten also collaborates with members of RNEL on a variety of non-human primate investigations. The team has developed a technique for robot assisted neurosurgery for high-accuracy minimally-invasive deep brain electrophysiology in monkeys. This research focuses on better defining the neuronal pathways of motor and sensory transmission within the spinal cord. The work has led to a novel deep brain neuromodulation modality for post-stroke patients. These experiments also determined that proprioceptive pulses consistently produced neural trajectories in the network that were disrupted by concurrent cutaneous branch stimulation. This disruption propagated to the somatosensory cortex, suggesting that peripheral electrical stimulation can disrupt natural information processing across the neural axis.

Dr. Gerszten’s clinical research focuses on the adoption of minimally invasive surgical treatments for disorders of the spine. Such minimally invasive techniques allow for decreased morbidity while improving outcomes in neurosurgical patients. Such techniques include the use radiosurgery and expanded radiofrequency ablative techniques for patients with spinal tumors. Dr. Gerszten was a co-principal investigator of the NRG Oncology/RTOG 0631 Clinical Trial comparing stereotactic radiosurgery versus conventional radiotherapy for localized vertebral metastases of the spine which was published this year in JAMA Oncology. Dr. Gerszten continues to expand and systematically analyze the clinical outcomes and safety profiles associated with the use of new spinal implant devices. Dr. Gerszten has a particular interest in documenting the safety and efficacy of minimally invasive sacroiliac joint fusions using titanium screw implants for sacroiliac joint dysfunction. 

Media Appearances