Gamma Knife

Gamma Knife surgery represents one of the most advanced means available to manage brain tumors; arteriovenous malformations and pain or movement disorders. The procedure is unique because, with the Gamma Knife, no surgical incision is performed to expose the target.

The Gamma Knife can destroy deep-seated blood vessel malformations in the head and brain tumors once considered inoperable. It can also eliminate pain conditions and certain movement disorders, as well as silence malfunctioning areas of the brain precisely, to stop seizures or ease disabling pain problems that have not responded to other management strategies.

[Read how the Gamma Knife had a positive result in a patient in Why I let a brain tumor go untouched for 10 years from the Washington Post.]

The Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center installed the first North American Gamma Knife in 1987 and subsequently introduced and pioneered each succeeding generation of technological improvement. Staffed by a highly skilled and productive team, we seek to provide rapid screening, scheduling, and completion of Gamma Knife radiosurgical procedures.

Almost 15,000 patients have undergone radiosurgery in the department's Gamma Knife units since 1987. In September of 2007, the Perfexion® Gamma Knife unit was installed and in 2015 the Leksell Icon -- encompassing the latest advances in radiosurgical technology -- was installed.

The Gamma Knife Unit

The Gamma Knife contains 192- 201 cobalt-60 sources of approximately 30 curies each, placed in a circular array in a heavily shielded unit. The unit directs gamma radiation very precisely to a target point. Such target points selected in the brain can be placed at the center of the radiation focus, allowing an effective radiation dosage to be delivered in one treatment session. The Gamma Knife has proved effective for thousands of patients with benign or malignant brain tumors, vascular malformations, pain or other functional problems.

Find out more about the Gamma Knife:

Gamma Knife Technical Overview

How was the Gamma Knife Technology Developed?

What Makes Gamma Knife Treatment Superior to Others?

What Can Patients Expect from the Gamma Knife?

What are the Gamma Knife's Primary Uses?

Professional Training

UPMC Presbyterian is a major teaching center for Gamma Knife radiosurgery as neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists and medical physicists from around the world come here to train. Understanding clinical outcomes and developing and testing the latest technologies has been a major goal. The center leadership consults with the Gamma Knife manufacturer, Elekta Instruments, to build new technologies for the future.

No center in the United States has managed more patients, performed more research, or published more scientific reports than the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh. The center has published more than 500 scientific articles in peer reviewed medical literature, book chapters, and several complete books.

The Department of Neurological Surgery conducts a training course, Principles and Practices of Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, approximately six times a year. This training course is targeted to neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, otologists, physicists and other physicians interested in Gamma Knife treatment certification.

The department also offers Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Training for Nurses a basic training course geared for nurses and other allied health personnel.