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L. Dade Lunsford

UPMC Media Relations

UPMC Presbyterian Opens New Generation Gamma Knife to Perform Bloodless Brain Surgery

PITTSBURGH, April 10, 2000 — UPMC Presbyterian, which is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is the first hospital in the United States to house a new generation gamma knife surgical unit, which performs non-invasive, computer-driven, bloodless brain surgery to destroy tumors and vascular malformations, once considered inoperable. The treatment requires no surgical incision.

"This newly refined instrument uses robotic engineering to enable us to deliver optimal treatment for deadly brain tumors and abnormal brain arteries and veins that can cause disastrous or even fatal bleeding in the brain," said L. Dade Lunsford, M.D., F.A.C.S., professor and chief of neurological surgery and co-director of the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The gamma knife was first introduced in this country at UPMC Presbyterian in 1987. In 1996, UPMC Presbyterian became the first hospital in the world to house two gamma knife units.

The gamma knife delivers a single high dose of irradiation at targets of just several millimeters up to three centimeters in diameter. Because the beam focuses precisely on the offending tissues, effects on surrounding brain tissue are minimized.

Surgery using the gamma knife is safer than many existing procedures because patients need not undergo risky open-skull procedures and adult patients do not require general anesthesia. It causes few side effects, and patients usually leave the hospital within 24 hours.

The new generation gamma knife provides rapid creation of dose-optimized treatment plans that mean better clinical outcomes for patients. A robotic automatic patient-positioning system allows for even greater accuracy of treatment.

"The automatic positioning system will make the procedure time shorter and therefore easier for appropriate patients," Dr. Lunsford said.

The unit is housed in the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery at UPMC Presbyterian and contains 201 sources of cobalt 60 in a heavily shielded room. Each patient’s procedure, which lasts from 10 to 40 minutes, is custom designed in consultation with a radiation physicist and radiation oncologist. The patient is monitored throughout the session using a video camera and television monitor.

The gamma knife is used to treat vascular malformations, acoustic neuromas, meningiomas, pituitary tumors, trigeminal neuralgia and malignant tumors. It was developed by Lars Leksell at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

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