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, focusing on spinal neoplasms. His clinical interests include minimally invasive approaches to the treatment of spinal disorders and spinal tumors. 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. 

Dr. Gerszten is co-editor of the 2015 second edition Spine Radiosurgery, an authoritative textbook—and the first of its kind—on all aspects of spine radiosurgery. He is also co-editor of the book Controversies in Stereotactic Radiosurgery: Best Evidence Recommendations, a 277-page look into an evidence-based approach to stereotactic radiosurgery for the brain and spine.

Dr. Gerszten currently serves on the editorial boards of Neurosurgery, The Spine Journal, and The Journal of Radiosurgery and SBR.

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

Specialized Areas of Interest

Outcomes research applied to neurosurgical interventions; failed back syndrome; stereotactic radiosurgery of spinal lesions; minimally invasive spine surgical techniques; sacroiliac dysfunction; compression fractures and percutaneous cement techniques.

Board Certifications

American Board of Neurological Surgery

Hospital Privileges

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

Section Editor, Youmans & Winn Neurological Surgery, 8th Edition, Elsevier, 2022.
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
UPMC Presbyterian Physician Unit Partner Program Leader, Unit 6D

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

  • Pittsburgh’s Best Doctors, Pittsburgh Magazine, 2018-22

Research Activities

Dr. Gerszten has a research interest in spinal neuromodulation. His work explores the role of spinal cord electrical stimulation for an expanding variety of indications. His previous work documented the potential use of radiosurgery for spinal neuromodulation, and his current research expands on this work in larger animal models. Dr. Gerszten collaborates with members of the University of Pittsburgh Rehabilitation Neural Engineering Laboratories 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 is expanding our indications to several neurodegenerative disorders included Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). 

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 of expanded radiofrequency ablative techniques for patients with spinal tumors. 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. 

Finally, this year Dr. Gerszten has collaborated with other members of the department to develop and evaluate an Augmented Reality (AR)-Based Surgical Guidance System. We hypothesize that headset-based AR platforms will be superior to current surgical techniques and image-guidance technologies in terms of accuracy, operative time, and use of radiation with fewer complications. Operative and procedural efficiency will be increased using Augmented Reality in comparison to standard surgical approaches.

Media Appearances

In Test, Zaps to Spine Help 2 Stroke Survivors Move Arms
U.S. News & World Report
February 20, 2023

Spinal stimulation can improve arm and hand movement years after a stroke
February 20, 2023

Experto dice que la Radiocirugía evita la cirugía en el tratamiento de metástasis que afectan a la columna vertebral
November 6, 2013

SBRT in tumours of the spinal column
July 30, 2013

La Radiocirugía. una alternativa eficaz para evitar la cirugía en el tratamiento de metástasis de la columna vertebral
June 11, 2013

Evaluar al paciente, clave en el manejo de columna vertebal
Diaro Medico
February 1, 2012

Stereotactic Radiosurgery Matures Into Mainstream Extracranial Technique (pdf)
Elekta Wavelength
August 2010