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UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Senior Director
Telephone: 412-586-9764
Patients and medical professionals may call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762) for more information.

L. Dade Lunsford, M.D.

UPMC Opens New Gamma Knife Unit to Treat Brain Tumors

Department of Neurological Surgery Is World Leader In Gamma Knife Treatment

PITTSBURGH, August 27, 2004 The University of Pittsburgh department of neurological surgery has opened a new gamma knife brain surgery unit at UPMC Presbyterian, becoming the only clinical site in the world with three units.

The gamma knife performs non-invasive, computer-driven, bloodless brain surgery to destroy tumors and vascular malformations, which were once considered inoperable. The treatment requires no surgical incisions.

The field of brain and body radiosurgery continues to grow dramatically as neurosurgeons respond to the shift of patient care to less invasive, multidisciplinary and more effective treatment options for patients with tumors and vascular malformations, said L. Dade Lunsford, M.D., Lars Leksell professor and chairman of the department of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and co-director of the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

As an international training and outcomes analysis site, the Center uses the latest generation radiosurgical technologies to enhance patient outcomes and to train the next generation of neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists, Dr. Lunsford said. The addition of this third unit further establishes the Centers stature as a world-leader in treating brain disorders.

Since the first gamma knife unit was installed at UPMC Presbyterian and the first in North America in 1987, more than 6,300 patients from all over the world have undergone treatment. The Center has a higher patient volume, now exceeding 700 patients per year, than any other center in the United States.

The robotic technology utilized with the gamma knife unit represents one of the most advanced means available to treat deep-seated vascular malformations, brain tumors and selected patients with pain, movement disorders or epilepsy once considered inoperable. The treatment is advantageous because it does not require a surgical incision to expose the lesion.

The center also is a highly regarded, international training center for gamma knife radiosurgery, holding numerous courses each year for neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and their staffs.

Along with the additional surgical unit, the gamma knife suite was expanded to nearly twice its previous size. A new reception area was added along with new patient preparation rooms, consultation suites and a new training area.

Our expanded gamma knife services will allow us to treat more patients efficiently, added Douglas Kondziolka, M.D., professor of neurological surgery and radiation oncology, vice chairman of education in the department of neurological surgery and co-director of the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery, particularly those with metastatic cancer of the brain, which represent the largest current indication for radiosurgery.

Gamma knife surgery is safer than many existing procedures because patients do not need to undergo risky open-skull procedures and adult patients do not require general anesthesia. The surgery causes few side effects and patients usually leave the hospital within 24 hours.

The gamma knife contains 201 sources of cobalt 60 in a heavily shielded lead-lined room. It aims the sharply focused sources of cobalt at targets in the brain that are several millimeters to 3 centimeters in diameter. Because the beams focus precisely on the target tissues, effects on surrounding brain tissue are minimized. Each patient's treatment, which generally lasts from 10 to 40 minutes, is custom designed using a computer and in consultation with a radiation physicist and radiation oncologist.

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